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The Airmen's Stories - W/Cdr. H W Mermagen


Herbert Waldemar Mermagen was born on 1st February 1912 at Southsea and educated at Brighton College. He joined the RAF on a short service commission in June 1930.

Despite turning out for the RAF and Richmond Rugby Club at wing three-quarter, his short thickset frame had already gained him the nickname of 'Tubby'.

He was posted to 2 FTS Digby on 12th July and soloed in an Avro 504K on 1st August. With his flying training completed, he joined 43 Squadron at Tangmere on 23rd June 1931.

Mermagen was posted to CFS Upavon in February 1934 for an instructors course. He became Flying Instructor with the Oxford University Air Squadron in May and on 1st April 1935 he joined the staff at 6 FTS Netheravon. On 1st June 1936 he was granted a permanent commission.



Mermagen joined the staff at CFS on 17th August 1936. He led the Inverted Flying Formation at the 1937 Hendon Air Display and performed individual aerobatics before the King on 9th May 1938.

As Officer i/c Handling Flight at CFS, he flew all the new prototype fighters and bombers before they were in squadron use.

On 27th February 1939 Mermagen assumed command of RAF Usworth. He relinquished this on 2nd September 1939, when it was upgraded to a Wing Commander post. He remained at Usworth in the post of Officer i/c Administration and Operations.

On 5th October 1939 Mermagen moved to RAF Duxford to reform and then command 222 Squadron, initially with Blenheims but with Spitfires from March 1940.

Over Dunkirk on 1st June he destroyed a Me110 and on the 19th he damaged a He111 at night over Hull.

He was awarded the AFC (gazetted 11th July 1940).

On 31st July 1940 Mermagen was posted from 222 to RAF Warmwell for Ops duties. He joined HQ 9 Group from Warmwell on 9th August, again for Ops duties. He was attached to HQ 12 Group on 12th August.

He temporarily commanded 266 Squadron at Wittering from 12th to 17th September 1940. Mermagen ceased to be attached to HQ 12 Group and was posted from HQ 9 Group to RAF Speke on 23rd September 1940 to take command with the rank of Acting Wing Commander.

He relinquished command of RAF Speke on 12th March 1941 and assumed command at RAF Valley.

Mermagen was posted to the Middle East in June, where he commanded the Fighter Sector Station at Port Said and then 259 Wing in Cyprus. Whilst there, as Service Training Officer at HQ Middle East, he flew a Spitfire VBS floatplane from Lake Timsor, one of the few RAF pilots to do so.

In July 1944 Mermagen returned to the UK and served on the staff of HQ AEAF and later SHAEF at Versailles until July 1945, when he was posted to Berlin as AOC British Air Command.

One of his last tasks at SHAEF was to help apprehend senior German officers including Field Marshal Kietel, General Jodl and Admiral Donitz. He also apprehended the Luftwaffe's General Koller at Berchtesgaden.

Mermagen remained in the RAF after the war, serving in a variety of staff appointments and as air adviser to the British High Commissioner in Australia.

When he returned home in 1950 he qualified as a Gloster Meteor jet pilot while commanding RAF Leconfield. He moved on to Flying Training Command as Senior Administrative Officer and then went as Air Officer Commanding to Ceylon in 1955.

Mermagen retired from the RAF on 14th November 1960 as an Air Commodore. He joined the bullion brokers Sharps Pixley, staying as a director with the company when it became part of the Kleinwort Benson Group. After attending the daily gold fixings in the City for 10 years he retired to Gloucestershire where he played golf into his eighties.

He was made an OBE (gazetted 24th September 1941), a CBE (gazetted 1st january 1945) and a CB (gazetted 11th June 1960). He was a Commander, Legion of Merit (US)(1946), was awarded the Medal of Distinguished Services (USSR)(gazetted 28th August 1945) and was made a Chevalier, Légion d’Honneur (Fr) (1951).

Mermagen died in January 1998.


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