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Air Commodore R Kellett (16177)

Richard            b: 24 Oct 1905                     r: 10 Apr 1947                     d: 3 Jan 1990

CBE - 1 Jan 1943, DFC - 16 Jan 1940, AFC - 28 Apr 1939, MiD - 7 Jan 1947, OST5* - 8 Jun 1937.

Plt Off: 30 Jul 1925, Fg Off: 30 Jan 1927, Flt Lt: 5 Nov 1930, Sqn Ldr: 1 Apr 1937, Act Wg Cdr: 6 Nov 1939, (T) Wg Cdr: 1 Mar 1940, (T) Gp Capt: 1 Mar 1942, Act A/Cdre: xx xxx xxxx,  (T) A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1946, Wg Cdr: 1 Oct 1946 [1 Oct 1941], A/Cdre: Retained.

12 Sep 1923:           Flight Cadet, 'A' Sqn, RAF College.

30 Jul 1925:            Pilot, No 3 Sqn. (Woodcock/Gamecock) (Upavon)

27 Sep 1926:          Attended Signals Course, Electrical and Wireless School, Flowerdown

30 Sep 1927:          Signals Officer, No 84 Sqn. (DH9A/Wapiti) (Iraq) (arrive 13 Oct 1927)

15 Jan 1929:           Signals Officer, No 30 Sqn. (Wapiti) (Iraq)

 5 Aug 1930:           Aircraft Engineering Course, Home Aircraft Depot.

 4 Oct 1932:            Engineering Officer, Aircraft Depot, Iraq.

22 Oct 1934:           Air Staff, HQ RAF Iraq.

 1 Nov 1935:           Flight Commander, No 32 Sqn. (Bulldog/Gauntlet)

xx xxx - 22 May 1937:    Seconded to Imperial Japanese Army.

 9 Jun 1937:            Officer Commanding, No 148 Sqn. (Wellesley) (Scampton)

 6 Dec 1937:           Flight Commander, Long Range Development Unit.

Wellesley of the Long Range Development Unit

23 Jan 1939:            Non-effective (Sick), No 1 RAF Depot

27 Mar 1939:          Group Engineering Staff Officer, HQ No 3 Group.

 2 Nov 1939:           Supernumerary, No 149 Sqn. (Wellington) (Mildenhall)

 6 Nov 1939:           Officer Commanding, No 149 Sqn. (Wellington) (Mildenhall)

12 Feb - 16 Mar 1940:           Admitted to RAF Hospital, Littleport

 8 May 1940:          Non-effective (sick)

xx xxx xxxx:             Wing Commander (Flying), No 270 Wing?

11 Dec 1941:           Officer Commanding, No 270 Wing

xx xxx xxxx:             SASO, No 205 Group

20 Sep 1942:           Prisoner of War (Stalag Luft III)

xx xxx xxxx:             

10 Jun 1946:            Air Staff, HQ Mediterranean & Middle East

After leaving Bedford School he entered RAF College, which he represented at Cricket.  As a member of the LRDU, he led the record breaking non stop flight by Wellesleys of the unit from Ismailia, Egypt to Darwin, Australia, a distance of 7,158.7 miles in 48 hours between 5 and 7 November 1938.  As CO of No 149, he was one of the few to escape when his formation was attacked by Bf109's during the daylight attack on Wilhelmshaven on 18 December 1939.  This attack was one of those which ultimately led to Bomber Command to resort to night bombing.

On the night of 13-14 September 1942, he joined a No 70 Squadron crew as second pilot in Wellington IC, Z9044 'B' for a raid against Tobruk.  On the return journey, the aircraft was force landed and the crew began to walk back towards the Allied lines and managed to evade capture until 20 September.  Retired on account of medical unfitness for Air Force service.

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross

“Squadron Leader (Acting Wing Commander) Richard KELLETT, A.F.C. (16177).

This officer displayed courage, coolness and determination in. leading his squadron and a combined formation of, aircraft in operations over an enemy naval base in December, 1939, which resulted in the infliction of heavy casualties on enemy aircraft.  In spite of the formidable opposition by aircraft and ground defences, he so controlled the formation for which he was personally responsible that casualties were slight and by his personal example and cool leadership he won the confidence of all pilots under him.”

(London Gazette – 16 January 1940)

*Citation for the award of the Order of the Sacred Treasure, 5th Class (Japan)

"KELLETT, Richard, S/L (16177)

for services as an instructor to the Japanese Army Air Service"

 (London Gazette - 8 June 1937)

Citation for the award of the Air Force Cross.

"KELLETT, Richard, S/L

for services rendered as aircrew in connection with the RAF Development Unit which established the World's Long Distance Record in November 1938; three Vickers Wellesley aircraft flew from Ismailia to Port Darwin, 7,158.7 miles in 48 hours (5-7 November 1938)".

 (Aeroplane - 3 May 1939)

Recommendation for the award of the Air Force Cross. Recommendation by W/C O. R. Gayford. 7 February 1939 which read in part:

"Squadron Leader Kellett was the leader of the flight; Flight Lieutenant R T Gething the senior navigator, and Pilot Officer M L Gaine the Signals officer of the Unit as well as Senior W/T operator.  They were all the crew of the leading aircraft of the flight."

The recommendation covered awards of five Air Force Crosses (Kellett, Gething, Gaine, Combe and Hefferman).  The Air Member for Personnel wrote (13 February 1939):

"I think the most equitable arrangement would be to give the AFC to the three occupants of the first aircraft, i.e. to Squadron Leader Kellett (pilot and leader of the flight), Flight Lieutenant Gething (navigator) and Pilot Officer Gaine (wireless operator).  I do not think it is possible to award one to Flight Lieutenant Combe without giving awards to each of the occupants of the aircraft, which I think would be rather excessive.  Moreover, to pick on Combe for an award would rather look like favouring the officers vis-a-vis the airmen.  If it is said that in simply giving awards to the occupants of the first aircraft we are decorating officers only and no airmen, the answer is that Gaine was an airman at the time the flight was formed but has since been commissioned."

The Chief of the Air Staff wrote a long memo to the Permanent Under Secretary and the Secretary of State for Air (23 February 1939) which read, in part:

"I have experienced considerable difficulty in this matter in making a recommendation to you which will, on the one hand, reward adequately the personnel of the Long Distance Development Unit and, at the same time, avoid over-doing the number of awards to be given, and possibly creating a precedent which might prove embarrassing on some occasion in the future.

I think it is not unfair to eliminate the crew of the aircraft which did not actually reach Australia. This leaves us with the crews of the other two aircraft (three in each).

Starting on the least possible basis, one might give a decoration only to the leader of the flight (Squadron Leader Kellett, who of course was the captain of his own particular aircraft, which reached Australia and is the joint holder of the record according to the adjudication of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.

As two aircraft actually reached Australia, I think it would be unfair to discriminate against the captain of the second aircraft (Flight Lieutenant Combe).

Considering the functions carried out by the other two members of the crew of each of these two aircraft, I find considerable difficulty in recommending that only the captains of these two aircraft should be rewarded, but if more than two flying awards are to be given I cannot see that it is possible to give less than six.

There is no doubt that this non-stop flight was a very considerable achievement, showing the highest qualities of skill, endurance and organisation, carried out at considerable risk to the personnel and resulting in added prestige to the Service, British aviation and the aircraft industry.

After a careful review of all of the above considerations, I have come to the conclusion that if there is any risk of our “over-doing” it by giving six flying awards, we are justified in doing so having regard to what was achieved, and I can see no alternative to either six or two, and this latter figure would, in my opinion, be “under-doing” it.

"I therefore recommend that each member of the crew of the two record breaking aircraft should receive a flying award.  This will mean five AFCs and one AFM (Sergeant H B Greay was the pilot/wireless operator in Flight Lieutenant Combe’s aircraft)."

This was duly done.  A recommendation for a BEM to 340503 Flight Sergeant S E Hefferman was supported and yet apparently not approved.  Wing Commander Gayford’s submission said that he was:

"...the Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Flight, whose work throughout was extremely conscientious and thorough, and whose efforts contributed to a marked degree in attaining the final aim of the Unit."

 (Source: Air 2/4022)

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