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The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. M N Crossley


Michael Nicholson Crossley was born on 29th May 1912 at Halford, Warwickshire. He was educated at Eton. Afterwards he studied at the College of Aeronautical Engineering, Chelsea.

While there he was awarded Aero Certificate 11118 by the Brooklands Flying Club on 22nd May 1933. After graduating in 1933 he was employed by the Aero Club at Brooklands.

Later he was an assistant director at Elstree Film Studios. In 1935 Crossley joined the RAF on a short service commission and began his initial training on 25th November.



On 15th February 1936 he was posted to 11 FTS Wittering and after completing the course he joined 32 Squadron at Biggin Hill on 24th August.

Immediately preceding the war Crossley spent some time as ADC to the Governor of Aden. He rejoined 32 in 1939 and on 31st August he was appointed 'A' Flight Commander and made an Acting Flight Lieutenant on 9th September 1939.

From 18th May 1940 the squadron used Abbeville as a forward base. On the 19th Crossley shot down a Me109, on the 22nd another, on the 23rd two more, on the 26th a Ju88 and on 8th June he destroyed two He111s on a patrol over France from Biggin Hill.

Awarded the DFC (gazetted 21st June 1940), Crossley received it from the King at Biggin Hill.

On 20th July 1940 Crossley claimed a Me109 destroyed and shared a Me110, on the 25th he got a probable Me109, on 12th August two Me109s destroyed, on the 15th two Ju88s, a Do17 and another Do17 shared, on the 16th a Me109, a Me110 and a Ju88 destroyed, on the 18th a Me109 and a Ju88 destroyed and a Do17 damaged and on the 25th a Me109 and a Do17 destroyed.

Crossley was shot down twice in the Battle of Britain. On 18th August he baled out after being shot down by Me109s and landed at Gillingham. His Hurricane, N2461, crashed at Wigmore.

On 24th August he crashed at Lyminge after a combat over Folkestone. The Hurricane, P3481, was written off but Crossley was unhurt.

On 16th August 1940 Crossley had been promoted to Acting Squadron Leader and given command of 32 Squadron after S/Ldr. J Worrall was posted away.

He also married during August (below).


He was awarded the DSO (gazetted 20th August 1940) and remained with the squadron until April 1941 when he was sent to America as a test pilot with the British Air Commission.

Back in the UK, Crossley led the Detling Wing in 1943. He contracted tuberculosis and was restricted to non-operational flying.



Crossley was made an OBE (gazetted 1st January 1946) and released from the RAF in 1946 as a Wing Commander.

He later went to South Africa to manage a family business involved in growing trees to produce pit props.

He died suddenly in his garden on 7th December 1987 at White River, East Transvaal.

His portrait was made by Eric Kennington (below).




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