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Donald Bennett

Air Vice Marshal Donald Bennett
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Air Vice Marshal Donald Bennett

Donald Bennett started his career in the Australian Air Force before being sent on attachment to England and the RAF where he worked at the flying boat air base in Calshot, Southampton as an instructor.  This lead to a civilian job with Imperial Airways as a pilot flying both landplanes and flying boats.  During this time Bennett was part of the team involved with the famed Maia/Mercury composite flight across the North Atlantic as well as experiments for in-flight refuelling.  Bennett then went on to help set up the Atlantic Ferry organisation; a way for American- and Canadian-built aircraft to be delivered to Britain.  During the middle of the Second World War he returned to the air force. 

The achievements of this Australian-born airman whilst in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) during the Second World War earnt him the DSO.  He was instrumental in forming the Pathfinder Force.  Its success and therefore the RAF's air offensive over Germany was helped by Bennett's vision for the force.  During the last three years of the war the Pathfinders led almost every main raid.  The pathfinders motto was "We guide to strike"  and these crews with their elite navigational ability perfected the techniques of precision main force bombing.  

Timeline

1910Born 14 September, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
1930Joined the Royal Australian Air Force
1931Joined the Royal Air Force in Britain on attachment.  

Initally with 29 (F) Squadron later he was to instruct pilots on flying boats at the RAF marine air base in Calshot, near Southampton.
1935Left the RAF by transferring to the Reserve.

Joined Imperial Airways as a pilot and air navigator
1938Took part in the Maia/Mercury flight across the North Atlantic. The first non-stop mail flight to America
1939Was a part of the in-flight refuelling experiments being conducted at this time. 
1940Assisted in setting up the Atlantic Ferry organisation which saw the first formation flight of Hudson aircraft across the Atlantic. 
1941Rejoined the RAFVR and promotion to Wing Commander to command 77 Squadron. 
1942Transferred to command in 10 Squadron

Shot down during a raid to sink the 'Tirpitz', evaded capture and made it back to England

Requested in July by Arthur Harris, head of Bomber Command to form the Pathfinder Force. 
1943Promoted to Air Commodore in January and later Air Vice-Marshal.

Awarded the DSO 
1986Died 15 September aged seventy-six.

Post war achievements as a Liberal MP for Middlesbrough West,

Director of British South American Airways and a designer and builder of aircraft and cars. 




Air Vice Marshal Donald Bennett
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