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The Airmen's Stories - Wg/Cdr. G P Chamberlain


George Philip Chamberlain, an estate manager's son, was born on 18th August 1905 at Enville, Staffordshire and educated at Denstone College. He entered RAF College Cranwell in September 1923 and on graduating joined 25 Squadron at Hawkinge on 30th July 1925.

On 14th April 1927 Chamberlain went to India, joining 5 (Army Co-operation) Squadron at Risalpur, flying Bristol Fighters. He returned to the UK in August 1930 and went to the Electrical and Wireless School at Cranwell for a course.



Chamberlain went to Upavon on 21st July 1931 as Station Signals Officer, moving on 26th September 1932 to the staff of HQ ADGB and a year later to the SHQ Staff at RAF Netheravon. It was back to flying in 1934, with a posting to 17 Squadron at Kenley on 14th March as a Flight Commander.

In January 1936 Chamberlain went to RAF Staff College, Andover and a year later was appointed to the Signals Staff at HQ 16 Group, Coastal Command at Lee-on-Solent. He moved to 18 Group, Donibristle as Officer i/c Signals on 7th November 1938.

In April 1940 Chamberlain was serving on the Night Interception Committee at Air Ministry, which acceded to Dowding's request for a night unit. Chamberlain was given the job and he formed the Fighter Interception Unit at Tangmere, operating with Blenheims.

Chamberlain had to overcome countless problems caused by the inadequacy of the radar equipment.

On the night of 22nd July 1940 he was rewarded when, acting as Tangmere controller, he brought about the first successful night interception.

F/O G 'Jumbo' Ashfield, P/O GE Morris and Sgt. RH Leyland were on patrol in a Blenheim at 10,000 feet off Bognor Regis when Chamberlain alerted them to a group of raiders crossing the coast at about 6000 ft.

Ashfield went into a shallow dive and radar contact was made at one mile. At 400 yards Ashfield opened fire. The Dornier was still carrying its load and it exploded in Ashfield's face, showering the Blenheim with debris and throwing the aircraft on its back.

It was the first time an enemy night raider had been shot down with the help of airborne radar. For the next year Chamberlain flew by day and night perfecting the equipment.

He was posted to HQ Coastal Command on 17th July 1941, to work on U-boat detection and made an OBE (gazetted 24th September 1941).

He was posted on 4th January 1943 to No. 1 Radio School Cranwell and in August 1943 he went on a year's attachment to the RAAF in Melbourne.

When peace came Chamberlain was seconded to the Ministry of Civil Aviation. He attended the Imperial Defence College and returned to RAF staff work in 1950 as Air Officer Administration, Middle East Air Force.

The next year he was appointed to command the RAF Transport Wing in the Middle East. When local staff walked out, his wife Alfreda organised the RAF wives into working parties.

From 1953 to 1954 Chamberlain was commandant of the RAF Staff College, Andover, then headed the adminstration at HQ Fighter Command. In 1957 he was seconded to the Ministry of Supply as deputy controller of electronics.

Chamberlain retired from the RAF on 25th September 1960 as an Air Vice-Marshal CB OBE.

He joined the Collins Radio Company as managing director and was later a non-executive director.

In 1968, Chamberlain, who had done much to make flying safer, was fined for flying over the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough without informing air traffic control.

He died on 2nd November 1995.


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