Archiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2007-01 > 1167867875

From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [W-OBITS] CAREY: Frank Reginald Carey /dec/2004
Date: Wed, 3 Jan 2007 23:44:35 -0000

Group Captain Frank Carey
Last Updated: 1:20am GMT 09/12/2004

Group Captain Frank Carey, who died on Monday aged 92, was one of the
highest scoring fighter pilots of the 1939-45 War; he earned 25 "kills" in
the Battle of Britain and in Burma, as well as several shared victories.

Carey's career was all the more remarkable for the fact that he entered the
RAF in 1927 as a 15-year-old apprentice, a "Halton brat".

He was first employed as a ground crew fitter and metal rigger before being
selected in 1935 for a pilot's course. He was then posted as a sergeant
pilot to No 43 Squadron, the Fighting Cocks, whose aircraft he had been

Demonstrating exceptional panache in the Hawker Fury biplane fighter, Carey
was selected for the squadron's renowned aerobatics team which took part in
many air displays. In early 1939, No 43 Squadron was re-equipped at
Tangmere, Sussex, with the eight-gun Hurricane fighter.

Carey opened his account at Acklington in Northumberland, when he shared in
the destruction of several Heinkel shipping raiders during the cold winter
of 1939-40.

This was followed by a short spell at Wick defending the fleet at Scapa Flow
before he was commissioned as a pilot officer and posted with No 3 Hurricane
Squadron to Merville in France after the German invasion. "We patrolled the
front line wherever it happened to be at the time," he recalled. "The Hun
aircraft were all over the place. You just took off, and there they were."

On his sixth day of continuous combat, during which he bagged some 14
"kills" Carey was shot down. He had attacked a Dornier 17 bomber and was
following it closely down in its last moments; the pilot was dead but the
surviving rear gunner pressed his trigger to set Carey's Hurricane alight,
wounding him in a leg.

The fire stopped, and Carey landed in a large field between Allied and enemy
lines. After thumbing a lift on the back of a Belgian soldier's motorcycle
he joined a party of refugees until a British Army truck picked him up.

Eventually Carey arrived at a casualty clearing station in Dieppe where he
encountered the 16th Duke of Norfolk, a fellow patient who apologised that
he was only there with gout.

As the enemy closed in they were put on a hospital train, which was
subsequently bombed. Carey remembered how he and the duke had scampered to
safety, then returned to help move the seriously wounded. Meanwhile, the
engine-driver had uncoupled the engine, and made off.

Carey and his fellow walking wounded pushed the carriages out of the danger
area then kept going until reaching the Atlantic coast at La Baule where the
Hermitage Hotel served as an officers' hospital, though he was soon sent to
the less salubrious RAF tented depot, near Nantes.

In the second week of June, together with "three similar RAF derelicts",
Carey located an abandoned Bristol Bombay. Obtaining fuel from the French
Air Force they filled her up and took off, with Carey manning the rear gun.

After landing at Hendon in north London Carey discovered that he had been
listed "missing believed killed" and awarded a DFC and Bar to add to an
earlier DFM. He returned to Tangmere just in time for the Battle of Britain.

The son of a builder, Frank Reginald Carey was born on May 7 1912 at
Brixton, South London, where he led a gang in mock battles in the streets
before being sent to Belvedere School, Haywards Heath.

Once, after several ships had been lost from a Channel convoy during the
summer of 1940 Carey and five other Hurricane pilots of No 43 Squadron
arrived on the scene to find enemy aircraft "stretched out in great lumps
all the way from the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg.

At the bottom were Ju87 dive-bombers; above these Me 109s in great oval
sweeps, and above them Me 110s. Three of us got up into them. It was
absolutely ludicrous - three of us to take on that mob."

At one stage Carey found himself "hooked on to the tail of the last of an
echelon of 109s and started firing away quite merrily. Then I had an awful
wallop. It was an Me 110 with four cannons sitting just behind me. There was
a big bang and there, in the wing, was a hole a man could have crawled

Carey was slightly wounded by an explosive bullet, then another Me 110
damaged his rudder; but he managed to return to Tangmere only to be fired at
by its anti-aircraft guns. That he managed to land was, he said, "a great
tribute to the Hurricane."

He had been in combat up to six times a day when on August 18, the
squadron's losses enabled him to lead No 43 for the first time in an attack
on a mixed bunch of fighters and Ju 87 dive-bombers. "The fur was flying
everywhere," he recalled.

"Suddenly I was `bullet stitched' right across the cockpit." Since Tangmere
was under attack he turned away and found a likely field for a crash landing
at Pulborough, Sussex, where his Hurricane turned violently upside down.

After a spell in hospital Carey instructed at No 52 Operational Training
Unit (OTU), and served briefly as a flight commander in No 245, a Hurricane
squadron at Aldergrove, Northern Ireland. In November 1941, he received
command of No 135 Squadron, also Hurricanes, as it sailed for the Middle

But destiny intervened and, with the outbreak of war in the Far East, No 135
was diverted to Rangoon in Burma where there was little hope of doing more
than slightly delaying the Japanese jungle march on India.

On February 27 1942, Carey was promoted wing commander to lead No 267 Wing,
though it could seldom muster more than six serviceable Hurricanes. After
destroying several Japanese aircraft he was forced to move to Magwe.

Shortly afterwards Carey, painfully aware that "the parlous state of our
Hurricanes was showing" and that communications with Calcutta had broken
down, attempted to reach the city in a broken down Tiger Moth. But he got
only as far as Akyab, where he hitched a ride as spare pilot in a Vickers
Valencia transport and arrived in Calcutta, and went down with malaria.

By then he had started to attract press attention in Britain as the RAF's
cockney pilot. His recovery was aided when he was awarded a second Bar to
his DFC and was charged with forming a defence wing for the city.

As enemy raids increased Carey turned the Red Road, the main thoroughfare
across the city, into a fighter runway. "One advantage," he recalled, "was
that it was quite possible to sit in Firpo's, the city's fashionable
restaurant, and take off within three to four minutes. I managed it on
several occasions."

Early in 1943, Carey formed an air fighting training unit at Orissa,
south-west of Calcutta, for pilots who were unfamiliar with conditions and
Japanese tactics.

So exuberant were his young pupils that Carey devised a ruse to reduce their
drinking and high sprits to an acceptable level. He enrolled them in the
Screecher Club, whose members were graded according to their sobriety and
granted privileges to match.

In November 1944 he was posted to command No 73 OTU at Fayid, Egypt, in the
rank of group captain. Awarded the AFC, Carey returned home as the war ended
in 1945, where he was granted a permanent commission and posted to teach
tactics at a newly formed Central Fighter Establishment at Tangmere.

After attending the Army Staff College he reverted to the rank of wing
commander to lead No 135 Wing, 2nd Tactical Air Force in Germany, where he
flew Tempests. Converting to jets, he moved to Gutersloh as wing commander,

A succession of staff appointments followed until 1958 when he resumed as a
group captain and was appointed air adviser to the British High Commission
in Australia.

Carey, who was awarded the US Silver Star and appointed CBE in 1960, retired
from the RAF in 1962 and joined Rolls-Royce as its aero division
representative in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, retiring to Britain 12
years later.

Before the war he married Kay Steele with whom he had two daughters; after
their divorce he married Kate Jones in 1947; and after her death he married
Marigold Crewe-Read in 1993.

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