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Air Commodore J A Leathart (39625)


James Anthony                       b: 5 Jan 1915                        r: 6 Oct 1962                      d: xx Nov 1998

CB – 11 Jun 1960, DSO – 11 Jun 1940, MiD - 1 Jan 1941, MiD - 17 Sep 1943.

(AuxAF): Plt Off : 15 Jun 1936.

(RAF): Act Plt Off (P): 10 May 1937, Plt Off (P): 1 Mar 1938, Plt Off: 10 May 1938, Act Flt Lt: 24 Jul 1939, Fg Off: 1 Sep 1939, Act Sqn Ldr: 26 May 1940, Flt Lt (WS): 24 Aug 1940, Act Wg Cdr: 4 Aug 1941?, (T) Sqn Ldr: 1 Dec 1941, Sqn Ldr (WS): 4 Feb 1942, Act Gp Capt: 27 Mar 1944?, (T) Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1944, Wg Cdr (WS): 27 Nov 1944, Sqn Ldr: 25 Feb 1947 [1 Jun1944], Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1947, Gp Capt: 1 Jul 1955, Act A/Cdre: 17 Dec 1959?, A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1960.

xx May 1935:                Member, No 610 (County of Chester) Sqn AuxAF.

15 Jun 1936:                 Appointed to a Commission in the Auxiliary Air Force.

 8 May 1937:                U/T Pilot, No 3 FTS.

10 May 1937:               Appointed to a Short Service Commission.

24 Jul 1939:                  Flight Commander, No 54 Sqn.

26 May 1940:               Officer Commanding, No 54 Sqn.

xx Sep 1940:                Air Staff, Deputy Directorate of Air Tactics.

xx Mar 1941:                ‘Ops – 2 (Night Fighters)’, HQ Fighter Command.

xx May 1941:               On loan to RCAF to assist in formation of No 406 Sqn.

 4 Nov 1941:                Wing Commander - Tactics, HQ Middle East Command.

xx Sep 1942:                Officer Commanding, No 89 Sqn. (Beaufighter VIf)

10 May 1943:               Transferred to RAFO and called up for service

xx Jul 1943:                  Air Staff, HQ No 84 (Composite) Group.

xx Dec 1943:                Personal Staff Officer/Pilot to ACM Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory.

xx xxx 1944:                 Deputy SASO, HQ No 85 Group.

27 Mar 1945:               Officer Commanding, No 148 Wing.

xx Jul 1945:                  Directing Staff, RAF Staff College.

26 Mar 1946:          Appointed to a Permanent Commission in the rank of Squadron Leader (retaining rank current at the time) [wef 1 Sep 1945 antedated to 1 Jun 1944 on 28 Feb 1947]

xx xxx 1948:                Air Staff, HQ No 66 Group.

xx xxx 1950:                Air Representative, JIS

xx xxx xxxx:                 Wing Commander – Flying, Northern Sector.

xx xxx 1955:                Officer Commanding, Air Defence Operations Centre.

xx xxx 1957:                Officer Commanding RAF North Coates.

17 Dec 1959:               SASO, HQ No 12 Group.

 1 Jan 1962:                  Director of Operational Requirements (C).

Nicknamed 'The Prof' on No 54 Squadron due to him having attended Liverpool University.  He initially begun his flying training whilst still at university as a member of No 610 Squadron of the Auxiliary Air Force.  Joining the regular RAF on graduating, he completed his flying training at No 3 FTS and then joined No 54 Squadron at Hornchurch equipped with Gauntlets.  The squadron soon re-equipped with Spitfire I's and owing to the rapid expansion of the RAF he soon found himself a flight commander on the squadron.

In 1940, prior to the fall of France he undertook a rescue mission when the CO of No 74 became stranded in France  at Calais/Marck airport.  He commandeered a Miles Master trainer, and escorted by fellow squadron pilots, including Al Deere, he flew to France collected 74's CO and flew him back to Britain.  Five hours after the invasion of Normandy, he landed on the beach with a jeep mounted light radar unit, in order that he could control night fighters in the beach-head area.

Retired at his own request.

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Service Order

Acting Flight Lieutenant James Anthony LEATHART (39625).

During May, 1940, this officer led his squadron on a large number of offensive patrols over- Northern France. On one occasion an attack was made on a formation of no less than 60 enemy aircraft. In company with his squadron he has shot down fifteen Messerschmitts, and possibly one Heinkel in and one Junkers 88, during the period mentioned. He also flew a trainer aircraft to Calais Marck  aerodrome to rescue a squadron commander who had been shot down there but was uninjured. Whilst taking off, after the rescue, an attack was made by twelve Messerschmitt log's but with great coolness and skilful evasive tactics Flight Lieutenant Leathart succeeded in shaking off the enemy and landing again without damage. Subsequently, he took off and flew back to England unescorted. This officer has displayed great courage, determination and splendid leadership.

(London Gazette – 11 June 1940)

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