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The Airmen's Stories - P/O W A A Read

William Albert Alexander Read was born on 11th August 1918 in Palmers Green, London. He joined the RAFVR in July 1938 as an Airman u/t Pilot and began his elementary flying training at 21 E&RFTS Stapleford Tawney. By the time he reported for full-time service at the outbreak of war he had logged 46 hours flying time.

Read went to No.1 ITW at Selwyn College, Cambridge in November 1939 and was posted to 15 FTS Lossiemouth in late December.



After completing the course in late May 1940, he did a bombing course at Middle Wallop. On 10th June he was commissioned and posted to 5 OTU Aston Down. After converting to Spitfires he joined 263 Squadron at Grangemouth on the 26th but went on to 603 Squadron at Dyce on 7th July.

Off Aberdeen on the 24th Read shared in damaging a He111. Its port engine was stopped but it regained its base.

On 4th March 1941 Read was posted to 53 OTU Heston as an instructor, later moving with the unit to Llandow. In September 1941 he went to West Kirby for embarkation for Russia. Read sailed in the River Aston to Archangel with crated Hurricanes.

At Kineshma, on the Volga, the aircraft were assembled by RAF men and test-flown by Read and another pilot. The first flight was made on 3rd November 1941 and the last on 13th January 1942. Read formed five Russian squadrons and instructed the pilots.

After returning to the UK he was posted to 51 OTU Cranfield in early April 1942. Read was awarded the AFC (gazetted 11th June 1942). He was decorated by the King, who asked him questions about his work in Russia.

In March 1943 Read was posted to 29 Squadron at West Malling, operating Beaufighters from Bradwell Bay, these were replaced by Mosquitos in May. He moved to the Intensive Flying Development Flight at Boscombe Down in September 1943, testing the Westland Welkin.

In early February 1944 Read went to the AFDU at Wittering and flew various aircraft in developing rocket projectiles.

He was seconded to BOAC in July 1944 and posted to Cairo. Read flew as First Officer on Lodestars to Istanbul and Nairobi and later on Ensigns to Calcutta. He was released from the RAF in March 1946 and eventually joined BOAC as a Junior Captain.

In 1949 Read began flying Constellations on the London-Sydney run and later Comets. He retired from BOAC in 1963 and took up farming.

He died in May 2000.


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