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Remembering pilot who once escaped Nazi gunfire

Frederick Pawsey ANL-160711-140619001
Frederick Pawsey ANL-160711-140619001

Friends and family have been remembering Fred Pawsey, one of the few men to fly both Hurricanes and Spitfires in the Second World War.

Mr Pawsey, who died on September 3, was also one of the first UK pilots to be selected for training in the USA under the Arnold Scheme.

His son Christopher said: “He was a remarkable man, very popular with friends and colleagues and had a zest and enthusiasm for life. He was a great inspiration not only to those he taught but many others as well.”

His life was celebrated last month at a thanksgiving service at Cavendish Church.

Mr Pawsey died at Hazell Court Residential Home in Sudbury, having previously lived in Cavendish.

He was born in Alpheton on October 28, 1919, the son of a farm worker and the eldest of five.

Unable to afford university after finishing at Sudbury Grammar School he joined the RAF.

After three years training he was posted to 56 Squadron at North Weald in 1939.

In 1941 he was promoted to Sergeant and joined the group of sixty other prospective budding pilots to be shipped to Halifax Canada before travelling to the USA Dam Aero Tech Initial Flying School in Georgia.

Mr Pawsey later moved to the USAF Advanced Flying School Napier Field near Dothan Alabama where he qualified as an Above Average Pilot.

His son Chris explained: “This was a rare grade. The standards in the USA were considerably higher than in the UK as demonstrated by the fact nearly half of those sent from this country on the Arnold Scheme failed.”

All successful pilots were presented with the Silver Wings Badge of the USAF.

He was commissioned in Toronto, then selected to stay as an Advanced Instructor, a posting he said saved his life.

At the end of 1942 he returned to Britain to convert to Hurricanes and Spitfires.

In 1943 he was posted to 253 Hyderabad Squadron in North Africa flying Hurricanes from Sabala. The Squadron then converted to Spitfires.

During this time Mr Pawsey was operating as a Flight Lieutenant as well as an acting Squadron Leader.

In July 1944 he was sent on a secret mission to liaise with the Partisans in Yugoslavia.

After some weeks operating under the coded name ‘Captain Spitfire’ he had to make a hasty exit as the Germans learned of his whereabouts and were shooting at him with tank fire as he sprinted to get on the aircraft sent in to fly him out.

In 1944 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Mr Pawsey was demobbed in 1946 as a Flight Lieutenant.

He married in 1943 in Barking, Essex to Gladys (1921-2003). His son Christopher was born in 1945.

At first he later lectured in industry and worked for his fathers fruit farm, before training as a teacher in 1948.

He then started his 30 year career as a teacher at Hedingham Secondary School.

Daughter Janet was born in 1950 and the family moved to Sible Hedingham.

Between 1972 and 1975 he was the headteacher of the school.

He also served as chairman of Sible Hedingham Parish Council, secretary of Halstead and District NUT, secretary to Sible Hedingham Parochial Church Council, secretary to 2nd Sible Hedingham Scout Group and was a youth centre teacher.

In 1972 he moved to Cavendish and in 1980 retired from full time teaching.

He became chairman of Cavendish Primary School governors and chairman of Halstead and Hedingham Magistrates Bench.

In 2012 he moved to Sudbury.

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