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The Airmen's Stories - P/O P W Arbon

Paul Wade Arbon was born in Sydenham, South London on 8th February 1921 and educated at Brockley County School. He joined the RAF on a short service commission and commenced flying training at 13 E&RFTS White Waltham on 23rd January 1939. He subsequently went to 11 E&RFTS Scone and 6 FTS Little Rissington.

His first posting on 20th November 1939 was No. 1 School of Army Co-operation, Old Sarum for a short course after which he went to the Pilots Pool at Andover on 5th January 1940. Arbon returned to Old Sarum on the 13th of the month, when he joined 16 Squadron. Operating Lysanders from Hawkinge, the squadron went to France on 8th April.




Initially based at Glissy, the squadron moved to Bertangles on 13th April but was withdrawn on 19th May, returning to Lympne. Arbon moved with the squadron to Redhill, Cambridge, Okehampton and Weston Zoyland before volunteering to serve with Fighter Command.


Above: a Lysander.


He was posted to 5 OTU Aston Down on 7th September and after converting to the Hurricane joined 85 Squadron at Church Fenton on 26th September 1940.

85 Squadron operated in the night-fighting role and moved to Kirton-in-Lindsey on 23rd October 1940, Debden on 7th November 1940, Gravesend on 17th November 1940 and then back to Debden on 1st January 1941. About this time it was re-equipped with the Douglas Havoc.


Above: a Havoc of 85 Squadron.


Arbon attended No.1 Beam Approach School Watchfield for a bad weather landing course from 7th April to 19th April 1941.

On 4th May 1941 85 Squadron moved to Hunsdon. While there the Squadron Intelligence Officer, F/Lt. Geldart, went up to observe a practice airborne interception and recorded:

'... I persuaded a pilot called Arbon of 85 Squadron to take me up one afternoon when they were doing interception exercises.

I stood with legs apart behind the AI operator with my feet on a ledge on either side of the fuselage. Only too happy to have a 'penguin' on board, the pilot started fooling around like a porpoise. I became weightless and said so over the intercom, he then immediately went into a steep climbing turn and my leg gave way, slipped off the ledge and broke my ankle. Afterwards he was very contrite and made amends by giving me a whiff of oxygen and an orange...'.

Arbon continued serving with 85 until 16th June 1942, interrupted by a course at 2 School of Air Navigation at Cranage from 23rd December 1941 to 8th January 1942.

A short posting to 605 Squadron at Ford followed, perhaps connected with their conversion to the Havoc at this time.

On 25th June 1942 he went to 51 OTU Cranfield then on 29th to 54 OTU Charter Hall as an instructor.

A return to operations came on 31st January 1943 when Arbon went to 29 Squadron at West Malling as a Flight Commander. The squadron was converting from the Beaufighter to the Mosquito and operated from Bradwell Bay from 14th May, Ford from 2nd September and Drem from 1st March 1944.

Arbon was awarded the DFC (gazetted 14th April 1944) and took command of the squadron on 29th April 1944 as an Acting Wing Commander and took it back to West Malling until 20th June when it went once more to Hunsdon.





Above: receiving his DFC from the King, location currently unknown.


Arbon was awarded a Mention in Dispatches (gazetted 8th June 1944) though the details are currently undocumented.




Now equipped with the Mosquito Mk.13 in the intruder role, the squadron provided air cover over the Normandy beachhead and supported the army's advance inland. It also engaged incoming V1s.

With his tour completed, Arbon was posted to RAF Bradwell Bay as Station Commander on 11th July 1944.

This posting may explain why a Czech medal, the Military Merit in Silver 1st Class, appears amongst his decorations.

The medal, not awarded until 20th April 1948, was for 'outstanding contribution to the Czech Military in War' (not necessarily in combat). The Czech 134 Fighter Wing were stationed at Bradwell Bay when he was CO and this is his only recorded connection with them.

He moved to RAF Hunsdon as Station Commander on 22nd March 1945 but a month later was appointed to a staff job at HQ Transport Command.

He was at HQ Transport Command until 4th May 1945 then went to the School of Air Transport Netheravon from 5th to 25th May for a course retraining airmen from combat commands in the logistics of air transport. He then returned to the HQ on 26th May before leaving for 216 Group at Heliopolis in Egypt on 11th June. Its possible that he intended remaining in the RAF postwar and was being posted to appointments involving the repatriation of men and materials back to the UK, an operation that would continue after the war ended.


Above: British newspapers flown out to Italy by Mosquito.


He took command of 249 Wing at Bari, Italy on 23rd June 1945, moving his office to 173 Staging Post at Bologna two days later. After two days there he moved to 61 Staging Post at Udine.

His logbook entries end there but it is known that he returned to England at the end of the year and was released in 1946 as a Wing Commander.

At some time in late 1945 he must have gone to Austria as he took the photo below at Schwechat/Vienna airfield.


Above: Lt.General Richard McCreery (left), commander of the British forces occupying Austria, with Marshal Ivan Konev, Russian forces.

Konev, with Marshal Zhukov, led the final assault on Berlin. He oversaw the suppression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956.




Arbon remained in Class 'A' of the Reserve and his logbook shows him instructing in the Chipmunk T.10 from 1950 till 1953.

He started an Auction and Estate Agency business in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire and in 1967 was elected as the first President of the National Association of Estate Agents. The Association's HQ in Warwick is called Arbon House.

During his service with 85 Squadron he was especially friendly with F/Lt. G Allard and F/O WF Carnaby, neither survived the war, and while involved in a development in Broxbourne Arbon was able to have two roads named after them - Allard Way and Carnaby Road.

He died on 21st November 1968 after a car accident in France and is buried in Broxbourne.


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