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The Airmen's Stories - P/O T F Neil


Thomas Francis Neil was born in Bootle on 14th July 1920. He joined the RAFVR on 17th October 1938 as an Airman u/t Pilot and began his training at 17 E&RFTS Barton near Manchester.

Called up on 2nd September 1939, Neil went to 4 ITW Bexhill in early November. On 1st December he was posted to 8 FTS Montrose and on completion of the course he was commissioned and joined 249 Squadron on 15th May 1940 when it reformed at Church Fenton.

Flying from North Weald on 7th September, Neil claimed a Me109 destroyed, on the 11th a He111 destroyed, on the 15th two Me109's and a Do17 destroyed, another Do17 shared and a He111 probably destroyed, on the 18th a He111 damaged and on the 27th a Me110 and a Ju88 destroyed, a Me110 probably destroyed and a Ju88 shared.



On 6th October Neil shared a Do17, on the 25th claimed a Me109 destroyed, on the 27th a Do17 probably destroyed, on the 28th a Ju88 shared and on 7th November a Ju87 and two Me109's destroyed.

On this day Neil collided with W/Cdr. FV Beamish during a patrol and lost his tail. He baled out of Hurricane V7676, unhurt.

Neil was awarded the DFC (gazetted 8th October 1940) and a Bar (gazetted 26th November 1940) and he was made ‘B’ Flight Commander on 13th December 1940 as an Acting Flight Lieutenant.

In May 1941 249 went to Malta. The squadron flew off Ark Royal on the 21st, Neil leading the second group of Hurricanes. After a series of mishaps and misadventures they all reached Malta safely. On 12th June 1941 Neil destroyed a Mc200.

He left Malta on 26th December 1941 and returned to the UK, via the Middle East, South Africa, West Africa and Canada, finally arriving at Liverpool in early March 1942.

Neil was posted to 81 Group as Tactics Officer. He went to 56 OTU in mid-June and on 1st September 1942 he took command of 41 Squadron at Llanbedr.

In July 1943 he was posted to 53 OTU Kirton-in-Lindsey as an instructor. He later went to the 9th US Air Force, as Flying Liaison Officer with the 100th Fighter Wing. After D-Day Neil did some operational flying in France as a supernumerary.

In January 1945 he was posted to the School of Land/Air Warfare at Old Sarum, instructing and lecturing. Neil went to Burma in March 1945, investigating. Whilst there, he flew some operational sorties with No. 1 Indian Wing.

Neil returned to Old Sarum in April, leaving there in January 1946 to go on an Empire Test Pilots course at Cranfield.

Neil was awarded the Bronze Star (US) (gazetted 2nd August 1949) and the AFC (gazetted 2nd January 1956).

He retired from the RAF in 1964 as a Wing Commander.

His portrait was made by Cuthbert Orde (below) and Eric Kennington (bottom).

Neil died on 11th July 2018.





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