Above the Battle: An Air Observation Post Pilot at War

Above the Battle: An Air Observation Post Pilot at War

by Ronald Lyell Munro


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Above the Battle: An Air Observation Post Pilot at War by Ronald Lyell Munro

In April 1943, a young officer arrived at Penshurst to join ‘C’ Flight, 653 Squadron. He was no ordinary pilot and this was no ordinary RAF outfit. Lyell Munro was a soldier and 653 was an Air Observation Post Squadron whose pilots were Royal Artillery and whose ground crew were RAF.

AOP pilots were expert gunners, skilled flyers and incurable rule breakers. Flying from airstrips just behind the front lines, without armament and often with no parachute, they controlled the fire of hundreds of guns and their enemies learnt to dread the sight of the little green Austers in the skies above the battlefield. An incautious movement, a puff of smoke or a chance flash of reflected sunlight could bring tons of high explosives raining down.

They flew alone without ground control, scanning the skies constantly while they directed the guns. Closing at over 250mph, an attacking ME 109 left no time for indecision. Reactions had to be instinctive and evasive action instant. Failure was fatal.

After the War ended, the survivors went back into civilian life and few histories mention them or what they did. Lyell’s is one of only two personal accounts that are known to exist and it is likely that there will be no more. Written for his family and his comrades in ‘C’ Flight it is a story told without heroics, but with a deep affection for the men with whom he flew and worked.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781473872752
Publisher: Pen & Sword Books Limited
Publication date: 11/22/2016
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Born in Oxford in 1919, Lyell Munro was the second son of James Munro CBE, Professor of Entomology at Imperial College. He was educated at the Dragon School and Repton before going to Oxford to study Politics and Economics. When the war broke out, he joined the Royal Artillery and then volunteered to become an Air Observation Post pilot.

In 1946, Lyell returned to civilian life and completed his degree at Oxford before marrying Jean, the girl who he met in 1943 at what might count as one of the longest Christmas parties of the war. After serving as a Colonial Administrator in Africa and Cyprus and then as a Senior Civil Servant in the UK he retired to Scotland. He died in 2002 and is buried in Kinloss Abbey.

Table of Contents

List of Maps vii

Introduction viii

Foreword to the Original Manuscript xi

Chapter 1 In the Beginning 1

Chapter 2 The Birth of the AOP Squadrons 8

Chapter 3 The Making of an AOP Pilot 15

Chapter 4 The Calm Before the Storm 27

Chapter 5 The Storm Breaks 60

Chapter 6 Break-out to the Netherlands 102

Chapter 7 Beyond the Maas - Over the Rhine 150

Chapter 8 The Last, Long Mile 182

Chapter 9 When this Bloody War is Over… 208

Appendix I The Squadron Leader's Report 221

Appendix II Jean Munro 226

Appendix III From RAF Air Observation to Army Air Corps 252

Appendix IV 'The Aeroplane' September 24 1943: The Army's Austers 264

Bibliography 270

Index 271

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