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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. G D L Haysom


Geoffrey David Leybourne Haysom, of Durban, South Africa was born in October 1917. He attended King’s Preparatory School in Nottingham Road, Kwa-Zulu-Natal and went on to Durban High School where, like his older brother, he was an outstanding athlete and scholar.

After finishing school in 1932 he read Science, gaining his BSc at Natal University in 1935. Travelling to England in 1936 with the intention of reading medicine at Edinburgh University, a chance flight in an aircraft caused him to give up medicine in early 1937 and enroll as a cadet officer in the RAF.

He commenced training at the Central Flying School, Woodley near Reading in March 1937 before going on to 2 FTS Digby in May.



He spent May to September at 2 FTS Digby, moving with it to Brize Norton where he stayed till the end of 1937. He was commissioned and joined the staff of the School of Naval Co-operation at Ford on 8th January 1938. After postings to Gosport and Penhros he joined 79 Squadron at Biggin Hill on 1st November 1938.

Haysom was detached from 79 Squadron to the School of Air Navigation St. Athan on 6th May 1940 for No. 6 Short Navigation Instructors Course. He rejoined 79 Squadron on 31st May.

Near Abbeville on 8th June 1940 Haysom shot down a Me109 over Le Treport. He was appointed 'B' Flight Commander on 17th June with the rank of Acting Flight Lieutenant. He took temporary command of the squadron from 7th to 11th July after the CO, S/Ldr. JDC Joslin, was killed.

On 15th August Haysom claimed a Me110 shot down, on the 28th he made a forced-landing at Appledore Station, near Tenterden, when his glycol system was damaged in combat over Hythe.

On 30th August he probably destroyed a Me109, on the 31st shot down another and on 1st September damaged a Do17. Haysom shot down a Ju88 on 20th November 1940 which had been photographing damage caused in the German raid on Coventry.

On 1st April 1941 he destroyed a He111 and on the 4th he shared in damaging another.

He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 29th April 1941) and commanded 79 Squadron from June to 25th September 1941, when he was posted away to 51 OTU at Debden for Controller duties.

In mid-1942 Haysom was posted to the Middle East and he joined 260 Squadron on 19th July, possibly as a supernumerary to gain experience on Kittyhawks. Three days later he was promoted to Acting Wing Commander, to become Wing Leader 239 Wing in the Western Desert. At the end of his tour Haysom was awarded the DSO (gazetted 16th February 1943), being then credited with at least six enemy aircraft destroyed.

In Italy, where he was working in operations command, he used his experience of supporting the army in the Western Desert to evolve the 'Cab Rank' system, which was used with such success in the 1944 invasion of Europe. A squadron of fighters was airborne, generally in line astern and was called up by a Mobile Observation Post with the forward troops to attack specific targets.

During the Italian Campaign he was privy to material from the Ultra intelligence setup. He also met Antoinette Beckett, serving with the WAAF. They married in November 1944 in Naples. Antoinette, an Oxford graduate, had worked in radar intelligence, briefly based at Blechley Park, and was also an Ultra recipient - something neither of them disclosed to the other until it slipped out inadvertently 40 years later.

Haysom was released in 1946 as a Group Captain. He died in 1979.



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