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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. C F Rawnsley


Cecil Frederick Rawnsley was born in London on 10th March 1904. He worked as an electrical engineer and was engaged in the supply to the Hendon, Golders Green and Mill Hill areas.

He married Clara Burley in mid-1929.

He joined 604 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force in late 1936 as an Aircrafthand. In September 1937 he was accepted for training as an air gunner and he was crewed up with John Cunningham.



In the first half of 1938 Rawnsley qualified for his air gunner's badge at Eastchurch and was promoted to LAC. He was called up to full-time service on 28th August 1939 and promoted to Sergeant in May 1940.

Rawnsley was later given the chance to retrain as a Radio Observer with the squadron and he and Cunningham became one of the most successful and the best-known of the night-fighting partnerships.
They had their first victory on 5th February 1941, a He111.

Rawnsley was awarded the DFM (gazetted 4th April 1941), then having assisted in the destruction of two enemy aircraft. Then came a Bar to the DFM (gazetted 23rd May 1941) for seven enemy aircraft destroyed.


Above: Rawnsley (left) and Cunningham


Commissioned in July 1941, Rawnsley was awarded the DFC (gazetted 19th September 1941). In July 1942 he was posted with Cunningham to HQ 81 Group, to assist in directing the work of night-fighter OTUs.

In January 1943 Cunningham was given command of 85 Squadron at Hunsdon and Rawnsley again went with him, as Navigation Leader.

He was awarded the DSO (gazetted 26th October 1943), having by then assisted in the destruction of seventeen enemy aircraft, sixteen of them at night.

In March 1944 Rawnsley stood down as Navigation Leader when Cunningham was posted to HQ 11 Group as Group Captain Night Ops. Rawnsley went to the Fighter Interception Unit but soon afterwards he joined Cunningham once more, to help with preparations for the invasion of Europe.

Rawnsley was released in 1946 as a Squadron Leader. He was awarded the DFC (US) (gazetted 14th June 1946).

He rejoined the Auxiliary Air Force in the Secretarial Branch.

He died on 12th February 1965.

His portrait was made by Cuthbert Orde (below).


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