The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. K H Blair
Kenneth Hughes Blair was born on 15th February 1918 at Heaton Moor, Stockport. He joined the RAF on a short service commission and began his flying training in March 1937.
On 5th June he went to 11 FTS Wittering and on 1st June 1938 he joined 85 Squadron at Debden on its reformation. He went to France with the squadron at the outbreak of war.
Pilots of 85 Squadron RAF pause for a photograph between sorties at Lille-Seclin at 9am on 10th May 1940, the first day of the German invasion of France. They had been intercepting German formations since 4.15am and were to continue to do so until 9pm that evening, claiming a total of seventeen enemy aircraft destroyed for the loss of four Hurricanes.
Back row L to R: F/Lt. JRM Boothby, F/O TG Pace, S/Ldr. JOW Oliver (CO), P/O JH Ashton, P/O JW Lecky, F/O SP Stephenson, Sgt. G Allard, Sgt. LA Crozier, WO Newton.
Front row L to R: F/O KH Blair, Sgt. J McG Little.
On 10th May 1940 Blair destroyed two He111s and probably a third. He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 31st May 1940).
Above: Blair (right) with F/Lt. RHA Lee after both being awarded the DFC
After the squadron's return to Debden on 22nd May, Blair was posted to 151 Squadron at Martlesham Heath. He claimed a Me110 probably destroyed on 29th July 1940, a Me109 destroyed on 5th August, a Me110 shot down and another damaged on the 18th, a He111 probably destroyed on the 24th, a Ju88 shared on the 30th and a Do17 destroyed, a Me109 probably destroyed and a Do17 damaged on the 31st. On 30th September he shared a Ju88.
Blair and Sgt. P Copeland intercepted a Do17 on a pre-dawn sortie over the East Coast on 9th November off Skegness. Although they claimed it as destroyed it managed to reach Gilze-Rijen in Holland with two of the crew wounded.
On 15th January 1941 Blair claimed a Ju88 probably destroyed. On 10th July 1941 Blair took command of 1453 Flight at Wittering, operating with Turbinlite Havocs and 151 Squadron Hurricanes.
Above: 1453 Flight, Blair seated front row centre with his wire haired fox terrier 'Hannah' at his feet.
Above: his portrait by Eric Kennington, probably made while he was serving with 1453 Flight.
He was posted away on 4th September 1942.
In June 1943 Blair returned to operations as a Flight Commander with 25 Squadron at Church Fenton.
In October 1943 he was given command of 613 Squadron, at that time just transferred to 2 Group as a light bomber squadron with Mosquito VIs, to specialise in low-level daylight attacks on particular buildings. The first operational sortie was made by Blair on 19th December 1943.
He was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 23rd May 1944) at the end of his tour.
Blair stayed in the RAF postwar and died on 31st October 1953 from polio while serving at RAF Lindholme.
He is buried in Hatfield Cemetery outside Doncaster.
His older brother, Henry Gordon Blair, was born on 2nd July 1909 in Chorlton-on-Medlock, Lancashire.
His early life is currently undocumented until 29th December 1930 when he was granted a Short Service Commission in the RAF. He was posted at first to 2 FTS Haxey in Lincolnshire on 10th January 1931.
He then joined 29 Squadron on 29th December 1931. After two years or so service he was sent to the Central Flying School to train as an instructor, after passing out he was appointed, on 16th February 1934 as Instructor/Adjutant to 603 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force.
His next posting was to the Electrical and Wireless School at Cranwell on 26th April 1936, it is believed that this is when he became involved in the early development of radar.
On 1st June 1936 he was appointed to a Permanent Commission in the rank of Flight Lieutenant and on 5th October 1937 joined 28 squadron as its Signals Officer in Kohat, India (now in Pakistan). The squadron operated in the Army Co-Op role.
He later took command of 28 and 31 Squadrons before being recalled to the UK on 25th October 1940 and transferred to the Technical Branch.
His subsequent career postings attest to his continuous specialisation in communications:
1st March 1941 - Staff Officer, Directorate of Telecommunications.
9th June 1942 - Chief Signals Officer, Air Section, HQ Combined Operations.
18th October 1943 - Air Staff, Supreme HQ South East Asia.
11th September 1944 - Deputy Director, Directorate of Signals.
1st July 1947 - Senior Radio Officer, HQ Air Command Far East.
6th April 1948 - Command Signals Officer, HQ Far East Air Force.
January 1954 - Central Signals Establishment RAF Watton.
29th August 1955 - Command Signals Officer, HQ Middle East Air Force.
14th July 1958 - Director of Radio Engineering.
Blair retired on 29th October 1960, having been appointed Air Commodore on 1st July 1956.
He was made CBE on 1st January 1958 and DL (Berkshire) on 8th August 1975.
Henry Gordon Blair died in March 1989 in Swindon, Wiltshire.
HG Blair's son, Lieutenant-Colonel David Blair, was commanding officer of the 1st Battalion The Queen’s Own Highlanders when he was killed on 27th August 1979 at Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland by an IRA bomb. Seventeen other servicemen were also killed.
Additional research and images courtesy of Robert Blair (son of KH Blair).