The Airmen's Stories - P/O G H Westlake
George Herbert Westlake was born on 21st April 1918 in Rangoon, Burma where his father was the harbourmaster. He was educated at Shoreham School.
Westlake was a student at the De Havilland Aeronautical Technical School when he joined the RAFVR in September 1937 as an Airman u/t Pilot.
Called up on 1st September 1939, Westlake completed his training and was posted as a flying instructor, firstly to 9 EFTS Ansty and later to 3 FTS South Cerney. He was commissioned on 31st August 1940 and arrived at 6 OTU Sutton Bridge.
Above: Westlake wears 213's emblem, a hornet.
After converting to Hurricanes Westlake was posted to 43 Squadron at Usworth on 21st September. He moved to 213 Squadron at Tangmere on the 29th and he claimed a Me109 destroyed on 15th November.
In May 1941 213 Squadron embarked on the carrier HMS Furious for
the Middle East. It flew off to Malta on the 21st and went on to Mersa Matruh later the same day.
During the campaign in Syria in June 1941, Westlake was attached to 80 Squadron. He shared a Vichy French Martin 167 on the 6th and destroyed a Dewoitine D520 and shared another on the 9th. The squadron moved to Cyprus in July 1941. On the 18th Westlake destroyed a Ju88 and on 26th August a Cant Z1007.
In October 1941 he rejoined 213 Squadron and was appointed a Flight Commander. In June 1942 the squadron was serving in the Western Desert.
On the 10th Westlake probably destroyed a Me109 and damaged a Ju87, on the 12th and 16th he destroyed two Me109's, on the 26th a Ju87 and on 5th July he destroyed a Me110 and a Mc202 and damaged another.
Westlake was posted away on 24th August to 244 Wing but when 213's CO, S/Ldr. MH Young, was taken ill on the 31st, Westlake took temporary command.
He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 18th September 1942).
He led 213 until 13th October 1942 when he was posted to 211 Group as a controller, later moving to 212 Group.
There he took command one of the first Italian squadrons to fight alongside the Allies, No. 4 Stormo, flying the Airacobra on ground attack operations.
He was involved with planning the invasion of Sicily and Italy and in early 1945 he was appointed Wing Leader of 239 Wing.
On 21st March 1945 he led 'Operation Bowler' an attack on enemy shipping in Venice docks, which had to be carried out with no damage to historic buildings. His was the first aircraft of sixty four Kittyhawks and Mustangs to dive bomb the targets.
The operation was a great success and Westlake was awarded the DSO (gazetted 22nd June 1945).
Westlake stayed in the RAF postwar, specialising in fighter operations. He went on an exchange posting with the USAF at HQ Air Defence Command, Colorado Springs. After commanding the Southern Sector of the UK Air Defence Region, he spent two years at RAF Geilenkirchen in Germany as the wing commander in charge of flying. In 1961 he was promoted to group captain and commanded the fighter control station at Buchan, near Peterhead.
During the Indonesia Confrontation campaign, Westlake co-ordinated air defence operations at HQ Far East Air Force. At the end of 1967 he returned to Britain responsible for flying activities at Signals Command before retiring from the RAF on 25th July 1969 as a Group Captain.
Westlake then spent some years in Kuwait as an aviation consultant, returning to England in 1994.
He settled in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he died on 18th January 2006.