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The Airmen's Stories - F/O M H Constable Maxwell


Michael Hugh Constable Maxwell was born at Beauly, Invernessshire on 3rd June 1917, the seventh son and youngest of thirteen children. His father was a son of Lord Herries and his mother from the Lovat family. An elder brother had flown in the RFC in WW1.

He was educated at Ampleforth College, Yorkshire and went on to Hertford College, Oxford, where he read Modern History. He was a member of the University Air Squadron as well as being a commissioned officer in the 4th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, a Territorial unit. In the years preceding the war Constable Maxwell attended both Army and UAS camps.

In March 1939 he had applied for a Permanent Commission in the RAF as a University Entrant. On 28th August he heard that he had been accepted.

Called up at the outbreak of war, he spent a month as an army officer but then resigned his commission and reported to 9 FTS Hullavington on 10th October 1939. Constable Maxwell completed his training and was posted to 7 BGS at Stormy Down in March 1940 for a gunnery course, after which he joined 56 Squadron at North Weald on 20th April.


On 27th May 1940, operating from Manston in Hurricane P3478, he shared a He111 but was hit by Belgian flak. He baled out and landed near the flak battery. The CO, Prince Charles of the Belgians, apologised for shooting him down and ordered a staff car to take Constable Maxwell to Ostend where he boarded a trawler for England. The trawler evaded a torpedo attack and landed him at Deal.

Back with 56 Squadron, Constable Maxwell was bounced by Me109's over Le Tréport on 8th June and was wounded in the leg and foot by cannon shell splinters. A tyre burst on landing at North Weald and the aircraft slewed round. He was admitted to Epping Hospital.

On 28th August 1940 he claimed a probable Me109, on 27th September he shot down a Do17 and shared a Me110 and on the 30th he made a crash-landing on Chesil Bank after being in combat with Do17's and Me110's over Portland. His Hurricane, L1764, was a write-off but Constable Maxwell was unhurt. On 7th October he probably destroyed a Me109 but was fired on by a Spitfire as he returned.

He was posted to 52 OTU Debden on 21st February 1941. In late March he went to CFS for an instructor's course and then returned to Debden. At the end of July he moved to 60 OTU East Fortune to do more instructing but on 8th October he was posted to 604 Squadron at Middle Wallop. He was teamed with Sgt. J Quinton.

In March 1942 Constable Maxwell was promoted to Squadron Leader and posted to command the AI Flight at 60 OTU, taking Quinton with him. They were to remain together for over four years. At the end of August 1942 they went to 54 OTU Charter Hall, where Constable Maxwell was to command 'B' Squadron.

A return to operations came on 12th December 1942 with a posting to 264 Squadron at Colerne as a Flight Commander. During the night of 21st/22nd January 1943 Constable Maxwell, with Sgt. Quinton as his Radar Operator, damaged a Do217 over Deelen airfield and on 30th March a He111 was shot down in daylight. On 23rd April Constable Maxwell was promoted to Acting Wing Commander and given command of 604 Squadron.

He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 18th May 1943).

During the night of 25th/26th July Constable Maxwell and Quinton damaged a Do217 over Yorkshire and on 23rd August they destroyed a Ju88 in daylight over the North Sea. Their next victory, a Ju188, did not come until 21st March 1944. During the night of 15th/16th May they destroyed another Ju188, on 2nd/3rd July a Ju88 and, finally, during the night of 8th/9th July a Ju88 was shot down and a Do217 probably destroyed.

Constable Maxwell went to HQ 85 Group at Uxbridge on 19th July 1944, was awarded the DSO (gazetted 22nd September 1944) and posted back to 54 OTU to command the Training Wing.

With the war in Europe over, Constable Maxwell asked to be sent to the Far East. He was given command of 84 Squadron at Charra, Bengal but the Japanese surrendered before he led the squadron on operations. With the disbandment of 84 in December 1946, he took command of 60 Squadron in Singapore.

Constable Maxwell was posted to England on 8th December 1947. On arrival he took four months leave and on 27th April 1948 he entered Ampleforth Monastery as a novice, with a leave of absence from the RAF. He stayed at Ampleforth for four years but decided to leave and rejoined the RAF in November 1952.

He flew Meteor, Vampire and Venom jets and commanded 23 Venom Night-Fighter Squadron. In 1956 he found himself back with the Oxford University Air Squadron, this time in command.

From March 1960 spent six months as commander of Gan, an RAF staging post in the Indian Ocean and after returning he married in 1962.

Constable Maxwell retired on 3rd June 1964 as a Wing Commander and joined Robert Stuart, the family business which contracted to the aircraft industry. He died in August 2000 leaving a wife and two sons.


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