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The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. D G H Spencer

 

Desmond Gerard Heath Spencer was born in London on 18th March 1912 and educated at Harrow. On 19th October 1932 he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Supplementary Reserve of the Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry. He was in Gibraltar with the 2nd Battalion in 1933.

Spencer transferred to the RAF on a short service commission in September 1933. On 10th October he was posted to 3 FTS Grantham and after completing his training joined 16 (Army Co-operation) Squadron at Old Sarum on 2nd September 1934.

Spencer was posted to 5 (Army Co-operation) Squadron at Chakala, Rawalpindi on 14th March 1935.

 

 

Above: a shooting party on the NW Frontier 1935/6, Spencer far right and (below) also far right holding pistol.

 

 

The squadron was based at Quetta when an earthquake on 31st May 1935 caused tremendous damage and casualties, Spencer was buried for a short time. Some 60 RAF men were killed and about 60 invalided home.

At Risalpur the squadron took part in the Mohmand operations in 1935 and later the Hazara operations.

 

 

Above: refuelling at Merlut, Spencer with scarf, the photograph captioned '110 in the shade'.

 

Spencer was awarded the old India General Service medal and clasp. After operating from Miranshah in Waziristan he was awarded the new India General Service Medal and clasp.

On 16th May 1937 Spencer joined the Air Staff at HQ RAF India. He went to No. 1 (Indian) Group at Peshawar, controlling frontier operations. He was made an MBE (gazetted 1st January 1940) for operations in Waziristan in 1939.

In August 1939 Spencer returned to the UK and joined the staff at 6 FTS Little Rissington on the 28th. He was appointed to the Air Staff at HQ British Air Forces in France at Coulomiers on 20th January 1940 for Squadron Leader Ops duties.

Spencer returned to England on 13th June 1940. He was attached to 7 OTU Hawarden for a refresher course, from 15th to 20th July, before joining 222 Squadron at Kirton-in-Lindsey as a supernumerary. Spencer moved to 266 Squadron at Wittering on 25th July, again as a supernumerary, and took command on 18th August.

 

 

Above: Spencer, wearing a cap, sometime during the Battle.

 

He was posted away on 10th September to command 257 Squadron at Martlesham Heath but did not take up this appointment and was instead attached to HQ 12 Group on the 12th and then posted to HQ 13 Group next day, moving the same day to HQ 10 Group.

From 1942 to 1944 Spencer was at Air HQ Eastern Mediterranean as Group Captain Ops and in 1945 was SASO in Jerusalem.

He served at Nicosia in 1956 and was Air Attache in Karachi, Pakistan 1961.

He was made a CBE (gazetted 1st January 1965) and retired from the RAF on 22nd March 1967 as a Group Captain.

He died on 24th December 1995 in Padstow, Cornwall.

Spencer donated his logbook, flying helmet and medals to Harrow School Museum.

 

Additional research and photographs courtesy of Morwenna Churchward (daughter).

 

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