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The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. R C F Lister


Robert Charles Franklin Lister was born on 23rd August 1913 and attended Cheltenham College from 1927 to 1932. He entered the RAF College Cranwell in September 1932 as a Flight Cadet. He won the Groves Memorial Prize in 1934 and, after graduating, he joined 13 (Army Co-operation) Squadron at Netheravon on 28th July 1934.

Lister was posted to 20 (Army Co-Operation) Squadron at Peshawar on 28th February 1935. In 1937 he was supporting the Army, operating in the mountains of Waziristan against tribesmen led by the Fakir of Ipi.

Lister was awarded the DFC (gazetted 16th August 1938) for gallant and distinguished service in operations in Waziristan from 16th September to 15th December 1937.

He received a Mention in Despatches (gazetted 18th February 1938).


Back in the UK, Lister was posted to CFS Upavon for an instructors course, after which he went to 10 FTS Tern Hill. On 2nd January 1939 he was made Adjutant of 614 Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force at Cardiff.

In late 1939 Lister crashed during take-off with engine failure and fractured his spine. He was in plaster for nine months and was given a temporary job at the Air Ministry.

Lister was cleared for flying duties in August 1940 and asked for a posting to Fighter Command. He was posted to 7 OTU Hawarden, converted to Spitfires and then took temporary command of 41 Squadron at Hornchurch on 8th September.

He was shot down on the 14th whilst flying at the rear of a squadron formation in Spitfire R6605, by a Me109 out of the evening sun that no-one had spotted. Lister baled out when the aircraft caught fire, slightly wounded in the arm. On the 22nd he was attached to 92 Squadron at Biggin Hill as a supernumerary. Shortly after Lister's arrival the CO was burned and Lister took command.

On 24th September 92 was scrambled to be part of a 'Big Wing' of three squadrons. Time was wasted and it met a formation of nine Ju88's with a 100+ Me109 escort, head-on and slightly below. After a general break Lister, in X4427, found himself alone and being circled by some nine Me109's. He was eventually hit by a cannon shell in the bottom of the cockpit and wounded in both legs. He went into a spin, managed to get back to Biggin Hill but had only one flap working, causing him to go out of control into a skidding diving turn which fortunately took the Spitfire into a valley below the level of the airfield. Lister regained control, made a landing without flaps and stopped ten yards short of a wood at the far end.

After long hospital treatment Lister was declared medically unfit for flying duties in June 1941 and posted to the Operations Room at Biggin Hill as Controller.

In April 1942 he became SASO at HQ 219 Group at Alexandria and in October 1943 became CO 209 Group at Haifa.

From September 1944 until July 1945 Lister was on the staff at Air HQ Eastern Mediterranean, after which he commanded RAF Amman, Jordan until March 1946, when he was posted back to the UK.

Lister later commanded RAF Wattisham and was subsequently SOA at HQ 64 Group. He was Station Commander at RAF Newton when he retired on 31st October 1954 as a Wing Commander, retaining the rank of Group Captain.

He died in March 1998.

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