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The Airmen's Stories - P/O A H Humphrey


Andrew Henry Humphrey was born in Edinburgh on 10th January 1921. His father was an exchange broker based in India. His maternal grandfather was Colonel John Beatson-Bell, Judge Advocate-General in India.

Humphrey was educated at Bellhaven Preparatory School and Bradfield College. He entered the RAF College Cranwell on 12th January 1939 as a Flight Cadet.

After the outbreak of war Cranwell cadets who had not completed their course were enlisted in the regular RAF on 7th September 1939 as Airmen u/t Pilots.

Humphrey graduated on 30th April 1940 and was granted a permanent commission. On 4th May he was posted to 9 B&GS Penrhos as a staff pilot, flying Demons and training observers and air gunners.

On 3rd September 1940 Humphrey went to 7 OTU Hawarden, converted to Spitfires and joined 266 Squadron at Wittering on the 16th.



After the Battle of Britain the squadron went over to night fighting. On 4th December 1940 Humphrey destroyed a He111 over the Zuider Zee, having chased it across the North Sea.

During the night of 8th May 1941 Humphrey destroyed another He111, over Nottingham, and two nights later another two, the first shot down over the Belgian coast and the second shortly after take off from a nearby airfield. On the same sortie Humphrey also damaged a Me110.

For these actions Humphrey was awarded the DFC (gazetted 30th May 1941).

On 19th July 1941 he joined 452 Squadron at Kenley. On a sweep over France on the 24th Humphrey destroyed a Me109. Tour-expired, he went to 58 OTU Grangemouth as an instructor on 17th August.

Humphrey joined 175 Squadron at its formation at Warmwell on 3rd March 1942 as a Flight Commander. On 24th April he got a probable Me109, on 9th May destroyed two Me109s and on 3rd June he claimed a probable Fw190 over the Channel.

On 18th July 1942 Humphrey returned to 58 OTU and went for a course at 2 FIS on 2nd September. After this he returned to Grangemouth until the end of 1942, when he was awarded the AFC (gazetted 1st January 1943). He was attached to the Specialised Low-Level Attack Instructors School at Milfield for a course.

Humphrey was posted to the Middle East on 12th April 1943 as a Specialised Low Attack Instructor. He joined 6 Squadron in the Canal Zone and converted it to rockets. When the squadron was fully operational again, Humphrey went to No. 5 Middle East Training School at Shallufa as an instructor, responsible for rocket-training of Hurricane and Beaufighter pilots.

He later carried out similar duties in Cyprus and India. For this work, Humphrey was awarded a Bar to the AFC (gazetted 1st January 1945).

He finished the war in the Far East. Humphrey had a long and distinguished career in the postwar RAF. He was an instructor at the RAF Flying College Manby and in 1953 broke the Cape Town to London record flying a Canberra (below, Humphrey centre).



The following year, in the same aircraft, he made the first RAF jet flight to the North Pole.

He served at the Air Ministry and was OC RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus. Later he was Air Officer Commanding Middle East and Commander-in-Chief, Strike Command. Humphrey was made an OBE (gazetted 1st January 1951), was awarded a second Bar to the AFC (gazetted 9th June 1955) and created a CB (1959), KCB (1968) and GCB (1974).

Humphrey was Chief of Air Staff from 1974 to 1976, became a Marshal of the RAF in August 1976 and Chief of the Defence Staff in October that year.

He was Air ADC to the Queen. He died of pneumonia on 24th January 1977 at the RAF Hospital Halton, having been taken ill while visiting the RAF in Germany.

A memorial service was held in Westminster Abbey on 18th March 1977.


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