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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. G L Sinclair


Gordon Leonard Sinclair was born in Eastbourne on 15th August 1916, the son of an officer in the Inniskilling Dragoons. He was educated at Eastbourne College.

In February 1935 he enlisted in 'A' Battery of the Honourable Artillery Company as a gunner. Sinclair went to work in the steel industry.

He joined the RAF on a short service commission and began his initial flying training on 1st March 1937 at 9 F&RFTS Ansty.

He was posted to 3 FTS South Cerney on 8th May 1937 and after completing his training joined 19 Squadron at Duxford on 27th November 1937.


310 Squadron

(L to R) F/Lt. JE Boulton, F.Lt. J Jeffries, F/Lt. GL Sinclair


Sinclair made his first flight in a Spitfire on 16th August 1938. The port undercarriage leg collapsed on landing and the aircraft flipped over on to its back. He was unhurt.

He was still serving with 19 Squadron in 1940. Over Dunkirk on 26th May he destroyed a Me109 and probably another, on the 27th he probably destroyed a He111 and a Do17, on 1st June he destroyed two Me110's and on a later patrol the same day he claimed a He111 damaged and a Do17 destroyed.

Sinclair flew a patrol over Dunkirk on 4th June and then fell sick soon afterwards. He did not return to 19 Squadron until 3rd July 1940.

He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 25th June 1940).

Sinclair was posted to Duxford to be 'A' Flight Commander as an Acting Flight Lieutenant in 310 (Czech) Squadron, then about to be formed. It became operational on 17th August. Sinclair claimed a Do17 destroyed on 31st August, on 3rd September he destroyed a Do17 and a Me110, on the 7th he damaged a Me110 and on the 9th he destroyed a Do17.

On this day he collided with an unidentified Hurricane and baled out, spraining his ankle, landing in a wood at Caterham. His Hurricane, R4084, crashed off Purley Way, Wallington.

The first person to approach Sinclair as he lay on the ground was an old school friend serving with the Irish Guards, who had seen the parachute descend. He took Sinclair to the Guards officers mess at Caterham, but as he was wearing his flying overalls over a pair of pyjamas he was not allowed to dine because he was improperly dressed.

On 27th September Sinclair was shot down by a Me109 in an engagement over Thanet. He baled out, unhurt, landing at Chilham. His Hurricane, V6608, is believed to have crashed on Woodsdale Farm, Godmersham.

He was awarded the Czech Military Cross (gazetted 24th December 1940).

On 6th December 1940 Sinclair was posted from 310 to RAF Duxford, as non-effective sick. He did not rejoin 310 but in January 1941 he went to HQ 12 Group Hucknall, on staff duties.

He was given the task of forming and then commanding 313 Squadron at Catterick in May 1941.

He took command of 79 Squadron at Fairwood Common in September and led it until posted to the Air Ministry in December, in the Directorate of Fighter operations.

From March to September 1943 Sinclair was attached to various squadrons, awaiting re-appointment. He was given command of 56 Squadron at Martlesham Heath in October 1943.

Sinclair converted to the Typhoon when he took command of 56 Squadron. The aircraft had suffered many teething troubles as a fighter, but shortly after Sinclair's arrival the squadron converted to the fighter-bomber role at which it excelled. Sinclair led many attacks from Kent against airfields and V1 construction sites in the Pas de Calais.

Sinclair was promoted to Wing Commander in May 1944 and joined the staff at HQ 84 Group. In January 1945 he returned to the Air Ministry, in the Directorate of Fighter Operations and in October he was appointed Personal Air Secretary to the Secretary of State for Air, holding the post until November 1947.

Sinclair retired from the RAF on 23rd December 1957 as a Wing Commander.

After spending two years with Morgan Crucible, Sinclair joined a small steel importing company, becoming managing director. In the early 1960s he became deputy director of the British Steel Exports Association, but left in 1972 following nationalisation of the industry.

He joined a French steel company, being responsible for European operations until he retired, when he became a consultant. He was president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

In recent years, Sinclair was awarded the Order of King George of Podograd by the Czech government in recognition of his wartime service with the Czech fighter squadrons.

For services to the steel industry he was appointed OBE.

He died on 26th June 2005.

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