An extraordinary RAF career

David Pellatt when he received his MBE in 1984.
David Pellatt when he received his MBE in 1984.
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Transplant - The St Mary's Hospital team undergoing pulse and blood pressure tests after a training session

THIS WEEK IN 1979: Miracle athletes ready for Olympics

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One would think that the iconic aeroplanes of the Second World War such as the Lancaster and Spitfire would have all gone to the breakers by 1952.

But, in fact, many were still flying.

They were used for training purposes in hangars, although they would never fly again.

David Pellatt MBE of Southsea Terrace, Southsea, was born in 1936 and joined the RAF in 1952 as an airframe fitter, more commonly called a rigger.

His father, Frederick, was also in the RAF and was killed in 1943 when the Anson he was in crashed.

David was seven at the time and it was the incident that killed his father that was the inspiration for David to join the RAF.

His basic training was done at Halton in Buckinghamshire, where he joined as an aircraft apprentice on the marvellous wage of 12/6 (62p) per week, of which he was given 10/- (50p). The rest was put in a bank account.

He worked on redundant Lancasters and Mosquitoes. The Lancasters that did fly, David tells me, were by that time used for weather checks in the Atlantic.

On passing out, David went to Germany and, while there, he had national servicemen coming in 
who were, in David’s words, fantastic lads.

‘They had come from factories that produced aircraft and many were trainee engineers. They knew more about the engines of aircraft than I ever did and taught me a lot,’ he says.

By 1962, David was in Aden when there was a six-week war which cost the lives of many British troops.

Later he was in Uganda where a local baby needed a blood transfusion. David was the same blood group and gave a donation.

The baby’s father offered him a sum of money which David refused and that evening, a crate was delivered to David’s door which contained about 40 giant crayfish, a delicacy in those parts.

David spent the rest of the evening sharing them with his colleagues.

One of the people David flew with was the late Air Vice Marshal Johnny Johnson. David tells me that Johnson used to take his car with him when going abroad and, on one occasion, had an Austin Princess loaded on to an Anson for a VIP flight.

The stewards on this flight were of a higher rank than David and they did not think much of serving a lower rank than themselves.

He also served for four years in Oman. He says: ‘The Omanis are really lovely people and so willing to learn. They picked up whatever they were instructed to do so easily owing to there willingness.’

By 1979, David was a warrant officer. I asked him why he never went for a commission to be an officer. He says: ‘It was better to be a large fish in a small pond.’

David finished his career after 39 years by literally flying all over the world and in 1984 he was awarded with the Meritorious Service Medal of which only 17 are awarded each year.

His medals include General Service with Bar, Meritorious Service, Long Service: 18 years plus Bar for a further 12. Sultan of Oman Commendation Medal with Palm Frond, The Oman Defence Medal and Omani Medal after the Sultan’s 15-year reign.

The latter three are allowed to be worn. He was awarded the MBE. And, on retirement, David spent 20 years on a canal barge touring central England.