View Full Version : Obituary

06-29-2006, 04:39 PM
I find obituarties quite interesting to see what others have done or endured during their lifes comapred to mine - would it be worth starting a thread where these can be posted?

From The Times today:

The Times June 29, 2006

Wing Commander George Unwin
January 18, 1913 - June 28, 2006

Airman who from modest beginnings as an RAF clerk became one of the Battle of Britain's most prolific aces

Unwin, as a sergeant pilot during the Battle of Britain, with his alstian, Flash (Dilip Sarkar Collection)

JOINING the RAF as an apprentice clerk in 1929, George Unwin was selected for pilot training six years later, and went on to become one of the most successful Battle of Britain aces. By the end of the Battle, during which he flew as a sergeant pilot, he had shot down 14 enemy aircraft and had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal and Bar.
Commissioned later in the war, he returned to operations on Mosquitoes after a period as an instructor. In the postwar period he added a DSO to his DFMs for ground attack sorties against communist guerrillas in Malaya.

Unwin rejoiced throughout the RAF in the sobriquet “Grumpy”. However, this was not because of any naturally saturnine disposition, but because, while serving with 19 Squadron, he had apparently grumbled aloud to colleagues about the activities of Douglas Bader in an adjacent billet. On that occasion the famous legless fighter ace had spent part of one night filing one of his false limbs to make it more comfortable to wear. This kept Unwin awake. Once he had imparted his annoyance to amused comrades, he was immediately awarded his nickname — and it stuck for the remainder of his service career.

George Cecil Unwin was born the son of a miner in 1913, in the South Yorkshire colliery village of Bolton upon Dearne. Leaving school at 16, he applied to join the RAF and was accepted as an apprentice clerk in Records. He was to pursue a mundane career in this most unlikely branch of the Service for a future fighter ace for the next six years, being appointed leading aircraftman in 1931.

In that year he was sent to Headquarters Fighting Area at Uxbridge, where he served as a clerk until November 1935 when he was selected for pilot training. Having gained his wings, he was posted in 1936 to 19 Squadron, then still flying the open cockpit biplane Gloster Gauntlet, an aircraft woefully short on performance (max 230mph) compared with the Messerschmitt 109 (360mph), which had first flown the year before. In August 1938 No 19 was, however, the first RAF squadron to receive the Spitfire, so Unwin and his fellow pilots were experienced at operating the new type by the time the Second World War broke out in September 1939.

In the meantime Unwin had been compelled deliberately to crash one of these precious aircraft, when his engine stopped while he was on a training flight. As he was about to force-land in a field Unwin realised that a group of children were playing there, and aborted the landing in a much less favourable place, wrecking the aircraft and at some risk to himself. It was one of those occasions when “breaking a Spitfire” was considered a venial fault by the authorities.

When the Blitzkrieg in France and the Low Countries announced the end of the Phoney War in May 1940, No 19 was moved to Hornchurch, from where, from May 26, it flew sorties over the shrinking Dunkirk perimeter, attempting to protect the soldiers of the beleaguered British Expeditionary Force from air attack.

Owing to a shortage of aircraft Unwin, though an experienced pilot, was unable to take part in the first day’s sorties (and another version of the origins of his nickname is that he was very grumpy about this). Once he had a Spitfire underneath him, he soon made his experience felt.

In No 19’s valiant struggle against overwhelming enemy odds, Unwin had his first kill, that of a Henschel 126 spotter plane on May 27. The next day he shot down his first Me109 and on June 1 a twin-engined Me110. In the following days he claimed two more Me110s, though in the difficult circumstances of engaging the enemy over territory that was being rapidly occupied by German troops, these remained unconfirmed.

After Dunkirk there was a lull, but in the summer No 19 resumed operations with 12 Group’s Duxford Wing, under the command of Bader. From August 16, when he shot down an Me110 over Clacton, Unwin had a quite remarkable run of combat victories. On one day, September 7, he shot down two Me109s over the Thames Estuary, and just over a week later, on September 15 — the day now celebrated as Battle of Britain Day — he brought down three of these formidable adversaries over the South East of England.

Two DFMs, awarded within two months of each other (had he been an officer at that time they would have been Distinguished Flying Crosses), reflected his bravery and resourcefulness in an intense period of combat in which he was credited with 14 kills, though this total may well have been higher.

Rested from operations at the end of the battle, Unwin, who was commissioned in July 1941, had a number of flying instructor postings, before converting to Mosquitoes late in 1943. In April 1944 he was posted to 613 Squadron, in which, both before and after D-Day, he took part in intruder and strafing sorties over enemy occupied territory as part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force.

As a prewar regular, he stayed in the RAF after the war and after a number of instructing and staff jobs was, in late 1949, given command of 84 Squadron at Habbaniya in Iraq, operating the twin-engined Bristol Brigand fighter-bomber. With the communist insurrection against British rule in Malaya in full swing, Unwin, now a squadron leader, took this to out to Singapore, from where it flew sorties against guerrillas in the deep jungle. His leadership and courage were rewarded with a DSO in March 1952.

Unwin’s final appointment, as a wing commander, was as Permanent President of Courts Martial. He retired from the RAF in 1961, settling in Dorset, where he was regional director of the Spastics Society for a number of years. He was recently tickled to be immortalised by a toy manufacturer, who made a miniature model of him with his Spitfire and his beloved alsatian dog Flash.

His wife Edna prdeceased him. They had no children.

Wing Commander George Unwin, DSO, DFM and Bar, fighter ace, was born on January 18, 1913. He died on June 28, 2006, aged 93.

06-29-2006, 04:50 PM
By any chance do you have a link to that toy they made of him?

06-30-2006, 11:43 AM
Very very nice obituary there, 19 Squadron are still around today as well http://www.raf.mod.uk/squadrons/h19.html .

09-06-2006, 07:23 PM
The Times September 06, 2006

Lieutenant-Colonel 'Peter' Miller
March 22, 1912 - September 2, 2006

Inventor of the Wheelbarrow remote control bomb disposal device that saved countless lives

INVENTIVE by disposition from boyhood, “Peter” Miller realised that the simple means he had devised to trim his lawn — without the bother of walking behind the motor-mower — might have an important application to bomb disposal. This startling perception was to save hundreds of lives in Northern Ireland and elsewhere.
Until 1972 bomb disposal teams of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps had no means of examining or neutralising IRA explosive devices from a safe distance. The number of RAOC ammunition technical officers (ATOs) killed or maimed while attempting to disarm terrorist explosive devices in 1971-72 made it imperative for some form of remote-controlled gadget to be introduced. The immediate need was to attach a hook to a car bomb to allow the vehicle to be towed away to a site where it could be safely destroyed. All too often the process of attaching the towing hook triggered the explosion — killing the ATO.

This led Miller, then a weapons and explosives trials officer, to be asked to devise a solution. His first trials were with a mortar-propelled grapnel hook on a line. But the weight of a line of sufficient strength to bear the weight of the car compromised the accuracy of the shot. It was then that Miller was reminded of his own lawn- mower device by seeing a powered wheelbarrow being driven on a football field. His lawnmower had a lanyard attached near the front roller and fixed to a post in the centre of the lawn, so that it mowed in ever decreasing circles until the engine cut out when it reached the tethering post.

Miller visited his local garden centre intending to order a “gutted” mower, ie, with only the chassis and motor as the basis for development. But the sales assistant suggested instead a chassis of a battery- operated three-wheeled wheelbarrow. Miller took this and adapted it to carry a spring- loaded hook on a boom to reach beneath the suspect car, attached light nylon steering lines to the ends of the front axle for steering and fixed a rear shackle to drag the heavy-duty cable necessary to haul away the car once the hook had engaged.

Trials showed that the device would work if handled with dexterity, although the removal of the car proved difficult if it had been left out of gear with the brakes off, as it veered from side to side under tow. The death of an ATO in Belfast on March 30, 1972, decided Miller to waste no further time on non-operational trials, and Wheelbarrow Mark 1 was sent to Northern Ireland that day. It was just 22 days since the problem had first been put to him to solve.

The chief ATO in Belfast soon requested reinforcement by five more Wheelbarrows. In June, the IRA drove a Ford Cortina packed with explosives into a car showroom in Belfast. A Wheelbarrow was deployed and the car was removed and destroyed without casualties or damage.

Miller continued to persist with improvements, both in its steering and in its capability once in position. By mid- October 1972, the four-wheeled electrically driven and electrically steered Mark 3 had been in action on 21 occasions, the four wheels providing the essential stability. The attachment of a closed-circuit television camera, to enable the ATO to make a thorough close-up reconnaissance of suspect vehicles using a remote monitor, followed in November 1972, resulting in a significant breakthrough in bomb disposal operations in Northern Ireland.

A scissors clamp to remove explosive-packed milk churns and a “pigstick” to impale articles obscuring an explosive device were added. Tracks were fitted to the Mark 3, which could already climb a kerb, to enable it to negotiate a flight of three or four steps into a building, and it became the Mark 4.

Miller arranged that any failure of a Wheelbarrow — no matter how slight — was to be referred to him to solve. The Mark 4 tracks proved not to steer well so he lengthened them to 98in, providing optimum performance in the Mark 5. A nail gun was fitted to fire a masonry nail into a door jamb to prevent a swingdoor closing behind the Wheelbarrow. Radio control was substituted for the umbilical cord cable which could become entangled.

By November 1973 Wheelbarrow had been deployed operationally more than 100 times. In his refinement of it, Miller was helped by Warrant Officer Peter Gurney, GM, who later joined the Met’s Bomb Squad, won a Bar to his George Medal and was appointed MBE.

The development was subsequently taken over by a team of engineers and the manufacture formalised. The Times of October 29, 1981, reported: “Wheelbarrow Mark 7 is said to be capable of handling six out of ten devices found in Northern Ireland, and during the past decade must have saved countless lives.” Some 400 of the machines have been destroyed in action and it can be assumed that thereby many lives have been saved.

Miller received no honour or financial award in recognition of his invention. The Committee of Awards to Inventors claimed that, as an officer of a Ministry of Defence research establishment, he was already “paid to invent”. He did not actually claim to have invented Wheelbarrow, but simply copied the idea from his own lawnmower control, and took satisfaction from the great number of lives the device had saved.

John Francis Miller was born in Darlington, the son of Colonel J. F. X. Miller, and educated at St George’s College, Weybridge, and Sandhurst. He was commissioned into the Royal Tank Corps in 1932. He earned the nickname “Pete” or “Peter” because his squadron commander had called him “Piston Pete” when a piston in his tank failed during an exercise.

He served with the Transjordan Frontier Force, 1935-41, then as a squadron commander of 6th Royal Tank Regiment in the Western Desert, where he was taken prisoner at the battle of Sidi Rezegh. He escaped from a prisoner-of-war camp in Italy in 1943, and made a 600-mile walk south in an attempt to reach the Allied lines but was betrayed and recaptured. He remained a prisoner until the end of the war.

His postwar career was devoted almost entirely to weapon development and instruction. He commanded the Armament Wing of the Fighting Vehicles Research and Development Establishment, 1953-57, and worked there as a trials officer after leaving the Army.

In 1939 he married Barbara, daughter of Francis B. Cooke, an author of books on sailing. She survives him with three sons. Their eldest son was killed in a motor racing accident in 2000.

Lieutenant-Colonel J. F. (Peter) Miller, armaments expert, was born on March 22, 1912. He died on September 2, 2006, aged 94.