The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. M V Blake
Minden Vaughan Blake was born on 13th February 1913 at Eketahuna, a rural town at the foot of the Tararua Ranges in the North Island of New Zealand.
He was educated at Southland Boys High School and Canterbury University. He graduated in 1934 with an MSc and gained Honours in mathematics. In 1935 he was appointed a lecturer in Physics at Canterbury.
After just missing a Rhodes Scholarship two years running, Blake applied to join the RAF as a University Entrant. Against stiff competition, he was accepted, possibly because of an outstanding athletic record.
Blake sailed for England in November 1936 and on 21st December he began an elementary flying course at the Civil Reserve Flying School at Brough. Having proved his aptitude for flying, he was granted a Permanent Commission on 9th March 1937.
In late March he was posted to 5 FTS Sealand and with the course ending on 20th October he joined 17 Squadron at Kenley. Blake was appointed 'B' Flight Commander in June 1938. On 8th September 1939 Blake was approaching Croydon to land, when, realising that he was going to overshoot, he opened his throttle and his engine stopped. At 300 feet he slowed to stalling speed, hit the chimney of a nurses home and flipped on to his back into the foundations of the new Purley Hospital. The cause of the engine failure was found to be hay in the air intake, the result of parking aircraft in the open at Croydon for the first time. A small modification by Rolls Royce stopped any further occurrence. Blake escaped with a cut head.
On 10th April 1940 he was posted to 10 FTS Ternhill as an instructor, but on 11th August he went to 6 OTU Sutton Bridge for a refresher course and took temporary command of 238 Squadron at St. Eval on the 16th as a Flight Lieutenant, when the CO, S/Ldr. HA Fenton was hospitalised after being shot down on 8th August.
On the 21st Blake destroyed a Ju88, shared a Do17 on the 27th, destroyed a Ju88 on 11th September and a He111 on the 15th. Blake relinquished his command when Fenton returned on the 13th and he left 238 on 21st September to take command of 234 Squadron, also at St. Eval.
The Dornier destroyed on 27th August was shared with P/O BB Considine, it was Do17P 5D+JL of 3.(F)/31, they intercepted it over Plymouth and disabled the starboard engine. The aircraft belly-landed at Hurdwick Farm, Tavistock in Devon (below, Considine at left, Blake on right).
Lt. Walter Haffa, Fw. Gustav Klauschenke and Gefr. Johannes Schlegel were captured unhurt.
He shared a Do215 on 24th November and two Do17s on the 29th when 234 Squadron escorted the damaged destroyer HMS Javelin into Plymouth. On 20th December he damaged a Do17.
He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 20th December 1940).
Blake shared a Me110 on 11th March 1941, destroyed a Ju88 on 8th May and a Me109 four days later.
On 10th July 234 escorted Blenheims to attack shipping at Cherbourg. After shooting down two Me109s and probably another, Blake was hit and ditched his Spitfire IIa P8015 in the sea seven miles from the French coast.
In twelve hours, with a favourable wind, he paddled his dinghy to within two miles of the Isle of Wight and was picked up. In late July 1941 Blake was appointed Wing Leader of the Polish Wing at Exeter and two months later he went as Wing Leader to Portreath.
He was awarded the DSO (gazetted 27th July 1942).
Over Dieppe on 19th August 1942 Blake destroyed a Fw190 but was then himself shot down into the sea in Spitfire Vb W3561. After paddling all day and the following night, he was picked up by a German launch when only five miles from Dover. Blake spent his long captivity working on a new kind of rotary engine, which in post-war years proved to be too expensive to develop. Released in May 1945, Blake remained in the RAF, holding staff appointments at home and overseas.
He married Molly Seldon, also from New Zealand, in 1947.
He retired in January 1958 as a Wing Commander.
"Mindy" Blake was an accomplished golfer, although he did not take up the game until he was 34. He wrote Golf Swing of the Future, a book published in 1972.
He died in England on 30th November 1981. His wife died in 2023 aged 103.