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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. F R Carey


Frank Reginald Carey was born in Brixton, South London on 7th May 1912 and educated at Belvedere School, Haywards Heath. He joined the RAF in September 1927 as an Aircraft Apprentice at Halton and passed out in August 1930 as a Metal Rigger.

Carey went to 43 Squadron at Tangmere as an AC1. In 1933 he returned to Halton for a conversion course, to be a Fitter II (Airframes). In 1934 he was posted to Worthy Down, now as a LAC, and served there with 7 and 58 Squadrons.

He had applied for pilot training and was selected in 1935. He passed out as a Sergeant-Pilot from 6 FTS Netheravon and joined 43 Squadron in September 1936.

An accomplished pilot of the Hawker Fury biplane fighter, Carey was selected for the squadron's aerobatics team and took part in many air displays. In early 1939 43 Squadron was re-equipped at Tangmere with Hurricanes.



He was still with the squadron at the outbreak of war and on 30th January 1940 he shared in destroying a He111 which was attempting to bomb fishing boats.

On 3rd February Carey shared in the destruction of a He111 and on the 12th he shared another. He was awarded the DFM (gazetted 1st March 1940) and promoted to Flight Sergeant.

On 28th March Carey shared in the destruction of a He111 east of Wick. He was commissioned on 1st April 1940.

On the 10th he was posted to 3 Squadron at Kenley. Carey's section was sent to France on 10th May. On that day he claimed four He111's destroyed and another shared, on the 11th another He111 destroyed and on the 12th he shot down a He111 and a Ju87 and probably a second Ju87.

On the 13th Carey claimed one Do17 destroyed, a He111 shared and possibly a Me110. On the 14th he claimed a Do17 shot down south of Louvain.

His Hurricane, L1932, was hit by return fire and he made a crash-landing south-east of Brussels.

After thumbing a lift on the back of a Belgian soldier's motorcycle he joined a party of refugees until a British Army truck picked him up. Eventually Carey arrived at a casualty clearing station in Dieppe where he encountered the 16th Duke of Norfolk, a fellow patient who apologised that he was only there with gout.

As the enemy approached they were put on a hospital train, which was subsequently bombed. Carey and the Duke took shelter then returned to help move the seriously wounded. Meanwhile the engine-driver had uncoupled the engine and driven off.

Carey and his fellow walking wounded pushed the carriages out of the danger area then kept going until reaching the Atlantic coast at La Baule where the Hermitage Hotel served as an officers hospital, though he was soon sent to the less comfortable RAF tented depot near Nantes.

In the second week of June, together with three other RAF walking wounded, Carey located an abandoned Bristol Bombay. Obtaining fuel from the French Air Force they filled it up and took off, with Carey manning the rear gun.

After landing at Hendon in north London Carey discovered that he had been listed 'Missing, believed Killed'.

Carey was awarded the DFC and Bar, both being gazetted on the same day (31st May 1940). He rejoined 43 Squadron at Tangmere on 24th June.

On 9th July he destroyed a Me110 and shared two others, on the 19th he shot down a Me109 and damaged two others. On this day F/Lt. JWC Simpson was wounded and Carey was appointed 'A' Flight Commander, with the rank of Acting Flight Lieutenant.

On 8th August he damaged a Me109, on the 12th probably destroyed a Ju88, on the 13th he probably destroyed a Ju88 and damaged two others, on the 15th shot down another Ju88, on the 16th destroyed two Ju87's and damaged two more and on the 18th destroyed another Ju87.

On the 18th Carey was himself shot down and he crashed at Holme Street Farm, Pulborough, in Hurricane R4109, wounded in the right knee. He was sent to the Royal West Sussex Hospital, Chichester and did not return to the squadron until 5th October with the rank of Pilot Officer.

In November 1940 Carey was posted to 52 OTU as an instructor, but returned to operations in February 1941 as a Flight Commander with 245 Squadron at Aldergrove.

He was back at 52 OTU not long afterwards and was posted away on 25th July 1941. Carey went to Baginton on 15th August to form and command 135 Squadron. It sailed on 6th December for the Far East and arrived at Rangoon on 19th January 1942. Ten days later he destroyed a Nakajima Ki27 over the city and damaged another.

Carey was promoted on 12th February 1942 and became Wing Commander Flying of 267 Wing. On the 23rd he destroyed a Ki51, on the 24th a Ki27 and a transport aircraft and on the 26th three Ki27's.

Carey wanted to report the poor condition of the wing's Hurricanes but as communications with Calcutta had broken down he attempted to reach the city in a Tiger Moth. But he got only as far as Akyab, where he hitched a ride as spare pilot in a Vickers Valencia transport. Once in Calcutta he immediately went down with malaria.

He was awarded a second Bar to the DFC (gazetted 24th March 1942) and tasked with forming a defence wing for the city.

As enemy raids increased Carey turned the Red Road, the main thoroughfare across the city, into a fighter runway. 'One advantage' he recalled 'was that it was quite possible to sit in Firpo's, the city's fashionable restaurant, and take off within three to four minutes. I managed it on several occasions'.

Early in 1943, Carey formed an air fighting training unit at Orissa, south-west of Calcutta, for pilots who were unfamiliar with conditions and Japanese tactics.

Carey was posted to 73 OTU Abu Sueir in November 1944 as CO, he was now a Group Captain. For his work in India he was awarded the AFC (gazetted 1st January 1945).

He returned to England in July 1945 and was granted a permanent commission.

After attending the Army Staff College he reverted to the rank of wing commander to lead 135 Wing, 2nd Tactical Air Force in Germany, where he flew Tempests. Converting to jets, he moved to Gutersloh as Wing Commander Flying.

Carey held various staff appointments until finally in 1958 he was made Air Adviser to the British High Commission in Australia.

He retired on 2nd June 1960 as a Group Captain, and was made a CBE (gazetted 11th June 1960). Carey was also awarded the Silver Star (US).

Carey went to work at the Rolls Royce Aero Division in Australia and returned to live in the UK on retirement.

He died on 6th December 2004. His portrait was made by Cuthbert Orde (below).


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