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The Airmen's Stories - F/O D A Coke


David Arthur Coke, entitled to the title The Honourable as he was the son of the Fourth Earl of Leicester, was born on 4th December 1915 in London. The family seat was Holkham Hall, Norfolk.

He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge where he read Mechanical Studies. He learned to fly with the University Air Squadron and was commissioned in the RAFVR in June 1939.



Called up on 1st September 1939, he completed his training and arrived at 5 OTU Aston Down on 20th April 1940. After converting to Hurricanes he was posted to 257 Squadron which was then reforming at Hendon. He arrived on 14th May. On 12th August his Hurricane, P3776, was severely damaged in combat over Portsmouth. He was able to crash-land and was admitted to the naval hospital at Haslar where a finger was amputated.

He was detached to Debden on 12th September but returned to 257 on the 27th. He destroyed a Me109 over the Channel on 27th October. On 29th December 1940 he was posted to 46 Squadron. His next postings are currently unclear but he was probably with 33 Squadron in the Greek campaign and by late 1941 was serving with 80 Squadron in the Western desert.

He was killed aged 26 on 9th December 1941 when his Hurricane was shot down by fighters during a squadron sweep in the El Adem area. He is buried in Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma, Libya.

He was posthumously awarded the DFC (gazetted 26th December 1941) for an attack on enemy transport on the El Adem - Acroma road in November 1941.

The citation read:

This officer participated in an attack on enemy transport on the El-Adem-Acroma road one day in November, 1941 in which a
large number of vehicles, tanks and mechanised transport were bombed and machine-gunned. The damage inflicted played a very large part in the blocking of the road. By his skill and leadership, F/Lt. Coke contributed materially to the success achieved. In addition to the low flying machine-gunning operations which have been carried out, F/Lt. Coke has led the Squadron with great success in air combat. During an engagement 2 days later the Squadron shared in the destruction of 5
Messerschmitt 109s.


Coke's friendship with fellow pilot and author Roald Dahl is described in Dahl's autobiography Going Solo (ISBN-10: 0142413836 and ISBN-13: 978-0142413838)


Above image and portrait at top courtesy of the Holkham Estate




Above cemetery images courtesy of The War Graves Photographic Project


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