Dave Leicester - Flight commander at 19

Running time
3 min 16 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


When a commanding officer, CO of a squadron, when he became a CO he had finished his tour of ops and he had then been sent to a squadron to be the commanding officer, and he was really forbidden to fly any more ops at all. On one occasion, the CO of the squadron I was on in Yorkshire decided he would like to do an op, but he didn't have a crew, so he took with him all the senior officers of the squadron, and he got shot down.

Here we are on the squadron with no CO and no senior officers. I was 19, I had done 23 or 25 ops, and I was the most senior pilot on the squadron. There were other officers on the squadron, but they hadn't had much experience. One of the officers that was shot down was a flight commander, and we didn't have a flight commander, and I was asked if I would take over the role of flight commander until such time as we got a replacement.

Well, crews were short at that time, and they didn't find one, and so I was asked then to take over as the flight commander. Now, a flight commander's rank was a squadron leader, and so I went from sergeant pilot to a squadron leader in about six weeks. And I kept the job. They couldn't find another. Air crews were very short at that time. Replacements were very short, so I was just asked to take it over.

Well, the role of flight commander was to detail the crews on ops. There was normally about 12 to 15 crews on what they called a flight. On an op they might want 12 crews, so we would detail 12 crews and the other three or four would get the night off. So the flight commander had the job of detailing which crew went on ops. That was a pretty hard job for a lad of 19, to send off crews that might not come back.

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