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The Airmen's Stories - P/O E W Wootten


Ernest Waite Wootten was born at Aberbeeg, Monmouthshire, on 5th November 1918, his family moved to Worcester shortly afterwards and he was educated at Malvern preparatory school and Kings School, Worcester. He developed an ambition to be a pilot after a joyride with Sir Alan Cobham's flying circus at Malvern.

In 1936, on the insistence of his engineer father, he was apprenticed to CA Parsons at Newcastle upon Tyne. He joined the RAF in 1938 and began a short service commission in July 1939. He did his initial flying training at 12 E&RFTS Prestwick, his intermediate at 9 FTS Hullavington and advanced at 15 FTS Lossiemouth.



In late February 1940 Wootten was posted to 9 AOS Penrhos as a staff pilot. He joined 4 Continental Ferry Pilots Pool at Cardiff and Kemble in May, ferrying aircraft from MUs to squadrons in France and the UK.

Wootten was posted to 7 OTU Hawarden on 3rd September and after converting to Spitfires he joined 234 Squadron at Warmwell . On 9th October 1940 he shared in destroying a Ju88, had another confirmed on 25th November and destroyed a Do17 on 19th December. He shared a Me110 on 11th March 1941, two Me109's on the 19th and another on 14th July. He was appointed a Flight Commander in August and awarded the DFC (gazetted 29th August 1941).

He often flew with his bull terrier on his lap. Wootten was chosen to fly some aerobatic sequences for the film ‘The First of the Few’.

On 10th November 1941 Wootten was posted to command 2 Delivery Flight at Colerne, moving on 14th January 1942 to HQ 10 Group as Squadron Leader Tactics. He returned to operations on 8th June taking command of 118 Squadron at Ibsley, part of the Middle Wallop Wing. Wootten damaged a Fw190 on 23rd January 1943.

At the end of April he was appointed Wing Commander Flying at Coltishall, destroyed a Fw190 and damaged another on 3rd May and on 1st June moved to Fairwood Common to lead the Wing there. He was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 4th June 1943).

In January 1944 Wootten was posted to HQ Mediterranean Allied Air Forces in Algiers as Wing Commander Tactics, later moving to MAAF Advanced HQ at La Marsa, Tunisia. In March the HQ moved to Caserta, near Naples. Wootten went to 244 Wing Desert Air Force in June 1944 as supernumerary to the Wing Leader and was given his own Wing, 322, in July at Calenzana, Corsica for the invasion of southern France. On 23rd August the Wing moved to Frejus, in France, and went northward until it met the cross-Channel invasion forces in October 1944.

The Wing was then disbanded and Wootten was given 324 Wing Desert Air Force at Florence. He returned to the UK in December 1944 and had by then completed five operational tours on Spitfires and destroyed more than 13 enemy aircraft in the air and many more on the ground in attacks on airfields in France and Italy.

On 4th January 1945 Wootten was posted to the Pentagon in Washington as RAF Liaison Officer to the USAAF. In August he was appointed Wing Commander Flying at RAF Dorval, Montreal. He returned to the UK in January 1946. At some time he was ADC to the Queen.

Wootten was awarded the AFC (gazetted 2nd January 1950) and in 1959 was made military attache to Venezuela. Finding that this involved responsibility for Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, Honduras, Haiti, Panama and Ecuador, he requested a personal aircraft and was issued with a DH Dove. Wootten was piloting the Dove back to the UK with his wife aboard when he had to make a forced landing in Greenland. Breaking through cloud, he put down on the only clear stretch of beach for hundreds of miles. He was awarded the Venezuelan Air Force Cross in 1963.

He was made a CBE (gazetted 1st January 1971) and retired from the RAF on 5th November 1973 as an Air Commodore.

Wootten joined Hawker Siddeley Dynamics Ltd. in their Space Division, which was later nationalised as British Aerospace.

After retiring in 1984 he set up as an Aerospace Consultant.

Wootten died in May 1999.

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