Crawford-Compton, William Vernon

Date of birth:
March 2nd, 1915 (Invercargill/Southland, New Zealand)
Date of death:
January 2nd, 1988
Nationality:
New Zealander (1907-1947, Dominion UK)

Biography

Service number 65500.

Born in Invercargill on 2 March 1916, he spent his early years in Waiuku, near Auckland.
In late 1938 he and three other men sailed in the ketch ’Land’s End’ for England, where he hoped to join the RAF. The boat was wrecked on a reef off the coast of New Guinea and the four made a raft from wreckage. Having drifted for twelve hours, they reached the safety of a small island. After six weeks with local natives the party reached safety in a canoe. Crawford-Compton finally arrived in Liverpool on 6 September 1939, having worked his passage as ship’s carpenter on a tramp steamer, and joined the RAF on the same day as a mechanic.
Having been accepted for flying training, he gained his wings as a Sergeant-Pilot and was posted in early March 1941 to the newly-formed 485 (NZ) Squadron.
Commissioned as a Pilot Officer, Crawford-Compton claimed one Bf 109 destroyed and two others probably destroyed in the closing months of 1941. When the German battleships ’Scharnhorst’ and ’Gneisenau’ made their ’Channel Dash’ on 12 February 1942 485 took part in cover operations. Crawford-Compton, by now a flight commander, shot down a Bf 109 west of Ostend.
Crawford-Compton shot down four enemy fighters in March and April and shared another. Returning from a sweep in late April 1942 he was injured in a forced-landing. The mishap was badly timed as command of 485 was about to become vacant and, with Crawford-Compton now non-operational, the post went to the other flight commander, Reg Grant.
Fit again in July 1942, Crawford-Compton was posted to 611 Squadron as a flight commander.
By December 1942, when he was given command of 64 Squadron, he had destroyed four more German fighters.
Crawford-Compton was to lead 64 Squadron until late March 1943. Earlier in the month the squadron escorted US Liberators to bomb targets at Rouen and in a running battle he destroyed an FW 190 and probably a second. On another sortie he shot an FW 190 down into the sea west of Calais.
In June 1943 Crawford-Compton was appointed to lead the Hornchurch Wing. During his six months in command, forty-one enemy aircraft were destroyed and possibly as many more were destroyed or damaged. In late 1943 he was sent to the USA to lecture on tactics.
In April 1944 he became Wing Commander,flying for three Free French squadrons, based then in southern England but ready for transfer to the Continent as soon as the invasion had taken place. Crawford-Compton led them on sweeps, attacks on railways, military installations, flying bomb sites and on coastal targets in the Pas de Calais. In the month after D-Day he destroyed a further four enemy aircraft.
After the war, in which he had been credited with twenty-one enemy aircraft destroyed, he remained with the RAF postwar, retiring as an Air Vice-Marshal on November 1st, 1968.

Post-war career:
1946/1947: HQ, Mediterranean Air Command, Cairo
1948: Returned to the UK
1950: Air Attaché, Oslo
1954: Group Captain commanding RAF Bruggen, Germany
1957: Appointed CBE
1965: Appointed CB

Promotions:
April 23th, 1941: Pilot Officer (probation)
April 23th, 1942: Pilot Officer
April 23th, 1942: Flying Officer (probation)
March 28th, 1943: Flight Lieutenant (war sub)
October 20th, 1943: Squadron Leader (war sub)
April 20th, 1943: Acting Wing Commander
December 10th, 1946 : Squadron Leader
July 1st, 1947: Wing Commander
January 1st, 1955: Group Captain
July 28th, 1959: Acing Air Commodore
July 1st, 1960: Air Commodore
June 1st, 1963: Acting Air Vice Marshall
July 1st, 1963: Air Vice Marshall

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Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Acting Flight Lieutenant
Unit:
No. 485 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Awarded on:
March 10th, 1942
Action:
Citation:
"This officer has participated in a large number of operational sorties. He has at all times displayed great dash and determination. He has destroyed 2 and probably destroyed another 2 enemy aircraft."
Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Acting Flight Lieutenant
Unit:
No. 611 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Awarded on:
December 11th, 1942
Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
Action:
Citation:
"This officer has led his flight on many operational sorties with great skill and success. Since being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross he has destroyed a further 5 enemy aircraft bringing his total victories to seven.”
Details:
Second DFC awarded as a bar for on the ribbon of the first DFC.
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Squadron Leader
Unit:
No. 453 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Awarded on:
July 20th, 1943
Silver Star Medal (SSM)
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Acting Wing Commander
Awarded on:
September 24th, 1943
Action:
Recommendation:
"Wing Commander Crawford-Compton has had a distinguished career as an operational pilot. He carried out his first operation with No. 485 Squadron from Kenley in March 1941, and whilst serving with this squadron he was awarded the D.F.C. for destroying 2 enemy aircraft, probably destroying 2 and damaging 1 other.

In July 1942, Wing Commander Crawford-Compton became a Flight Commander in No. 611 Squadron. By October 1942 he had brought his score up to a total of 6 and a half enemy aircraft destroyed, 4 probably destroyed and 6 damaged. He had, moreover, shown himself to be a Flight Commander of exceptional merit and, in December 1942, he was awarded a Bar to his D.F.C. Before leaving No. 611 Squadron, Wing Commander Crawford-Compton increased his score of enemy aircraft to 8 and a half destroyed, 6 probably destroyed and 7 damaged.

Wing Commander Crawford-Compton was given command of No. 64 Squadron and quickly proved himself to be an outstanding Squadron Commander. During his term of command he brought his squadron to a high standard of fighting efficiency and, in addition, himself destroyed 3 more enemy aircraft and damaged another, before leaving the Squadron for a rest in March 1943.

In June 1943, after a short rest, Wing Commander Crawford-Compton was attached to the R.A.F. Station, Hornchurch, to deputise for the Wing Commander Flying and he was appointed Wing Leader of the Hornchurch Wing shortly afterwards. Despite the fact that this officer had now carried out the record number of more than 260 offensive sorties over enemy territory, he has retained his aggressiveness and determination to engage the enemy. As Wing Leader he has imbued the Squadrons under his command with the keenest zest for fighting and a tactical efficiency of the highest order, and his leadership and example are a constant source of inspiration and determination to the pilots of his Wing. Since becoming Wing Leader, Wing Commander Crawford-Compton has, in addition, brought his personal score of enemy aircraft up to a total of 13 and half destroyed, 6 probably destroyed and 9 damaged."
Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Acting Wing Commander
Awarded on:
January 26th, 1945
Action:
Recommendation:

"Wing Commander Crawford-Compton took over the duties of Wing Leader of No. 145 Wing in April 1944, and since June has acted as Wing Commander Operations as well as Wing Leader.

He led his Wing with outstanding skill, determination and dash throughout the pre-invasion period, and afterwards until the closer Army support role on the Continent precluded the use of large formations. Nevertheless, in his capacity of Wing Commander Operations, he has continued in the role of senior leader in close support tactics. In this role he has flown a greater number of sorties than could be considered his fair share, and always chosen to lead the more difficult assignments.

This officer - whose personal achievements included in the destruction of 4 enemy aircraft and approximately 20 mechanised enemy transport vehicles, since assuming his duties with 145 Wing, speak for themselves - has distinguished himself as a fearless leader who inspires those under his command by his relentless determination and courage in the face of danger.

It is worthy of note that Wing Commander Crawford-Compton has destroyed a total of 7 enemy aircraft since being awarded the D.S.O., added to which he has completed nearly 800 operational hours, which, it is believed, constitutes a record for a fighter pilot.

I have no hesitation in stating that I have never had the pleasure of recommending a decoration which was more richly deserved."
Details:
Second DSO awarded as a bar for on the ribbon of the first DSO.
Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
January 17th, 1947
Details:
With bronze Palm.
Croix de Guerre (1939-1945)
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
January 17th, 1947
Chevalier de l' Ordre National de la Legion d'Honneur
Rank:
Group Captain
Awarded on:
June 13th, 1956
Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)
Rank:
Air Vice-Marshal
Awarded on:
January 1st, 1965
Companion of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath (CB)
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Details:
With "FRANCE AND GERMANY" clasp.
Air Crew Europe Star

Sources