One of the many little-known heroes that fought in World War II, former Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot George Dunn DFC became linked to Greece when he flew to Athens in 1947, after the war had ended, to deliver a “Spitfire” fighter aircraft donated to the country. It was one of 77 planes then granted by the British government to reorganise the Greek air force. The very same aircraft was recently fully restored and made flight capable and, in January this year, 98-year-old George Dunn was there to witness its first test flight after 67 years on the ground.
The Athens-Macedonian News Agency approached Dunn at his home in the English countryside, asking him to recount his experiences and all he can remember of that time.
Even though he could not confirm the exact date of his flight to Athens, records show that Dunn delivered the Spitfire MJ755 to the then Greek Royal Air Force on February 27, 1947. The fighter aircraft was included in the 335th Royal Hellenic Pursuit Squadron at Sedes in April 1947.
“ It was after the war finished. I flew on 28th of January 1947,” George Dunn said. (…) ” It was the last test flight before the plane went to Greece. It was being sold [granted] to the Greek Air Force…We stopped for refuelling in Cyprus.” The planes given to Greece were then stationed at a maintenance squadron in Egypt.
On January 19, 2020 the Greek Spitfire took to the air once more at Biggin Hill Airport outside London after a full restoration, its Merlin engine greedily guzzling down kerosene. George Dunn was there “with his cane and his log book in his hands…he cried at those moments,” said Dimitris Kolias, the Vice-president of the “Ikaros” foundation that financed the aircraft’s complete reconstruction, in accordance with the wishes of the foundation’s president Peter G. Livanos.
“ [It was a] very moving experience, 73 years later,” George Dunn said about seeing the MJ755 after so long, and talked about his own war.
“In 1941 I volunteered for air crew and [was] actually called up by the RAF in June 1941 for training in Canada,” he said, explaining that a few years earlier, in 1937, he had left school before the age of 14 to work for a movers firm.
His first mission was in July 1942, after he returned to England: “I did my first tour with ‘Halifax’ bombers and then, just before the war finished, I went back in operations on Mosquitos [a wooden light bomber]…I flew 30 operations on Halifaxes and 14 on Mosquitos. Forty-four all together,” he said.
When we asked him which of the operations he took part in he considered the most important, he replied: “ [The] most important operation was on the V1, V2 rocket installation at Peenemunde”.
A well-kept secret
The British secret service had intelligence concerning the Nazi rocket testing in the region since November 1939. In April 1943, an RAF interceptor equipped with cameras succeeded in photographing the rocket launchers from a great height. The reaction of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was immediate; he called for the bombing of the installations “to the maximum degree”.
Because the range of action of the bombers was beyond that of the period’s radio navigation means, the operation had to be carried out at night with a full moon, which finally happened on the night of 17-18 August, 1943.
“ I was in the first wave. Two bomber groups in each wave. I was in the first wave and we were lucky, without any trouble from German night fighters,” Dunn says of that night.
As a bomber command pilot, he reach the rank of flight lieutenant in the RAF. “ I got DFC [Distinguished Flying Cross] during the war for the completion 30 operations,” he said. Asked to name his favourite plane, he immediately picked the mostly wooden Mosquito: “ It was a beautiful aircraft to fly. It had everything; rate of climb, speed, manoeuvrability, it was an all-purpose aircraft”.
Despite his 98 years, Mr. Dunn – or “George” as he clearly prefers to be called – is not an ordinary old-age pensioner. Last September he was back in the air above Biggin Hill, not behind the controls of bomber but as a passenger on a two-person Spitfire!
If there was anything he wished for during that flight, he confided, it was to touch the controls while someone else flew the aircraft. “I liked being up there!” he said enthusiastically.
George has also raised thousands of pounds for the RAF Benevolent Fund, which supports retired and current RAF personnel and their families. To find out how they help go to rafbf.org