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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. G S ff POWELL-SHEDDEN

 

Group Captain (Flight Lieutenant during the Battle) George Powell-Shedden, who has died aged 78, fought with distinction as a fighter pilot in two of the RAF's most critical battles of WW2.

During the Battle of Britain he served as a flight commander in Group Captain Douglas Bader's 242 Squadron and the next summer fought against even greater odds in the defence of Malta.

Though somewhat bulky for a Hurricane cockpit, and handicapped by a pronounced stutter, Powell-Shedden was recommended to Bader as "a very good type".


"Stutters! Stutters!" Bader exploded "that's no damn good to me. What's going to happen over the radio in a fight?"


Told that Powell-Shedden was a Cranwell man, though, Bader changed his mind. "Just the chap" he agreed "send him along".


Powell-Shedden joined the squadron early in June 1940 and soon displayed great flying skills, operational brilliance and a sense of discipline which was useful in steadying the Canadian pilots.
As the battle raged across southern England from July to September Bader wheeled his controversial Duxford Big Wing of five fighter squadrons in defence of London. Powell-Shedden shot down at least four enemy aircraft.

As fighting subsided at the end of the Battle's greatest day (September 15) there was consternation at Duxford as the wing counted its victories and losses: Powell-Shedden was missing. It transpired that he had shot down a Dornier bomber and was chasing another when a Me109 came out of cloud behind him and set his Hurricane on fire. While baling out he hit the tail and dislocated a shoulder.


George ffolliott Powell-Shedden was born at Cowes on April 1 1916 and educated at Wellington College, where he became a sergeant in the Officers' Training Corps. He entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, but then switched to the RAF College, Cranwell where he was commissioned in 1936. The next year he was posted to No 47, a Vickers Vincent squadron based at Khartoum. In 1939 he was transferred to No 33, a fighter squadron equipped with Gloster Gladiator biplanes for policing Palestine.

After the Battle of Britain Powell-Shedden was sent to No 258, another Hurricane squadron, as a flight commander; the next April he received his first command - that of 615, County of Surrey, an Auxiliary Air Force Hurricane squadron.

In July 1941 he was posted to the embattled island of Malta, where he formed the Malta Night Fighter Unit, a handful of Hurricanes working with searchlight and anti-aircraft gun crews. After adding two more kills to his score Powell-Shedden was awarded the DSO; the citation noted his "sterling work in the night defence of Malta", his "great and energetic organising ability" and his "courage and initiative in the air".


In January 1944, after further courses and staff appointments, he resumed operational flying with No 96, a Mosquito squadron, and then took command of No 29, a Mosquito squadron specialising in low-level night intruder missions before and after D-Day. He was given a Bar to his DSO for his leadership during many perilous missions with 100 Bomber Support Group. He was then appointed to command a succession of Mosquito intruder stations as a group captain.


In 1952 he received command of RAF Jever in Germany and from 1954 to 1957 served on the operational staff at Naples, before concluding his service career at the Air Ministry.


Powell-Shedden retired in 1961 to join the Stock Exchange and to farm in Buckinghamshire. He was twice married and had a son and a daughter.

With acknowledgments to the Daily Telegraph November 1994

 

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