The Airmen's Stories - P/O D R West
Donal Rock West was born on 1st January 1921 at Burton-on-Trent. He attended St. Josephs College, Trent Vale before being employed by Lloyds Bank at Swadlincote.
West joined the RAF on a short service commission and began his initial training on 27th March 1939 at 21 E&RFTS Stapleford. He completed his training at 15 FTS Lossiemouth.
On 19th November 1939 West arrived at 12 Group Pool Aston Down and after converting to Blenheims was posted to 141 Squadron at Grangemouth. In April 1940 the squadron began to receive Defiants.
He went to 5 OTU Aston Down on 7th July to convert to Defiants and rejoined 141, then at Prestwick, on 24th July and flew his first sortie on 26th August.
Above: He married Josephine Brougham in Westminster in October 1948.
West served with 141 until 16th December 1940, when he was posted to 256 Squadron at Catterick. He was promoted to Acting Flight Lieutenant and appointed 'A' Flight Commander. He was crewed up with Sgt. RT Adams as his gunner.
Just before midnight on 7th April 1941 they intercepted and shot down a Ju88 of II/KG54. It crashed at Banks Marsh, Southport and was 256 Squadron's first confirmed victory. In the early hours of 8th May West and Adams shot down a He111 of KG55, raiding Liverpool. It crashed at Wrexham.
In late 1941 West was serving with 153 Squadron at Ballyhalbert and at the end of his operational tour in 1942 he was attached to the Irish Air Corps as an operational instructor.
West rejoined 256 Squadron at Woodvale in early 1943 and later in the year went with it to Malta, flying a Mosquito there via the Bay of Biscay and Gibraltar. He served with the squadron in North Africa, Sicily, Sardinia and Italy.
On one occasion West led the squadron to attack low-flying torpedo-carrying Ju88's that were attacking a convoy off Algiers. He shot down a Ju88 but his Mosquito was hit by flak from one of the ships. West managed to reach his base but his undercarriage collapsed on landing, due to flak damage. Several feet of one wing were also shot away.
In January 1944 256 Squadron was detached to Naples for operations over the Anzio beach-head. It was forced to evacuate to Malta when Vesuvius erupted.
In April 1944 256 moved to Reghaia, Algeria. On the night of 11th May West damaged a Ju88.
He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 8th September 1944) and returned to the UK by sea.
He was posted to RAF Defford to command a flight engaged on Radar Research and Development. Just before the end of the war he converted to Meteors.
West stayed in the postwar RAF. He served in the Middle East, took part in the Berlin Air Lift in 1948, was on supply-dropping operations in Malaya and the Far East in 1949/50 and was a VIP Pilot in the Far East Communications squadron in 1951. He received a Mention in Despatches.
West retired from the RAF on 1st December 1961 as a Flight Lieutenant, retaining the rank of Squadron Leader.
He then went into civil flying and flew with various airlines worldwide before retiring from flying at the end of 1978 and going to live in Spain.
Having returned to live in the UK, West died in Staffordshire on 23rd December 2012.