Stephens, Maurice Michael
- Date of birth:
- October 20th, 1919 (Ranchi/Jharkhand, India)
- Date of death:
- September 23rd, 2004 (Great Britain)
- Service number:
- British (1801-present, Kingdom)
Mike Stephens, one of three brothers who would all serve in the RAF, entered Cranwell in 1938 and was posted early 1940 in France with No. 3 Squadron as part of the Air Compnent of the BEF. He claimed 11 victories in the Batlle of France.
After the Battle of Britain, his flight was made into No. 232 Squadron of which he became the first CO.
In February 1941 he joined No. 274 Squadron in North Africa. He subsequently went to Turkey, trying to get Turkish pilots to enter the war on the side of the British. In November 1941 Stephens returned to the Western Desert to take command of 80 Squadron of Hurricane fighter-bombers. During an angagement on December 9th his Hurricane was hit and set on fire, and he was wounded in both feet. He was about to bail out when his attacker overshoot him. Quickly he took control again of his aircraft and fired a burst on his attacker after which he parachuted out his damaged aircraft. Polish troops on the ground who came to his aid, confirmed that he shot the German plane down. After being admitted in hospital, he was sent to Kenya until Autumn of 1942 when he returned to Egypt. In October 1942 he volunteered for Malta, where he was given command of 229 Squadron.
With the Luftwaffe finally defeated in the air battle for Malta, Stephens was appointed to command the Hal Far Wing, which he led until June 1943. Thereafter he was brought home to be an instructor, commanding the Instructors School from January 1944 and ending his war as a liaison officer with the US Army Air Forces in America.
After the war he remained in the RAF, serving in staff appointments with Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe and in the Air Ministry, where he was involved in fighter operations. He retired in 1960 and joined Rolls-Royce (Aero Engines Division) as European representative based in Paris.
In final retirement after 1980 he lived for 12 years in the South of France before returning to settle in Britain. He was a keen fisherman on the rivers of Scotland and Ireland.
Besides the medal below he was also awarded the Coronation 1953 Medal and the Malta, 50th Anniversary Medal 1942-92.
December 23th, 1939: Pilot Officer (probation)
December 23th, 1940: Pilot Officer
August 20th, 1940: Flying Officer (war sub)
July 1st, 1941: Flight Lieutenant (war sub)
February 6th, 1943: Squadron Leader (war sub)
October 1st, 1946: Squadron Leader
July 1st, 1950: Wing Commander
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"This officer has continued to lead his flight against formations of enemy aircraft of much superior numbers with such good leadership that he rarely lost any members of his formation.
In addition Pilot Officer Stephens brought down four more enemy aircraft recently, bringing his total to eight."
Second DFC awarded as a bar for on the ribbon of the first DFC.
"In December, 1941, this officer led a bombing and machine-gun attack on enemy mechanical transport in the Acroma area. Following the attack, Squadron Leader Stephens observed the fighter escort in combat with a force of enemy fighters, but, whilst attempting to participate in the engagement, his aircraft was severely damaged by an enemy fighter pilot whose cannon fire exploded the starboard petrol tank which, with the oil tank, burst into flames. The same burst of fire wounded Squadron Leader Stephens in- both feet and blew out the starboard side of the aircraft's cockpit. Squadron Leader Stephens then prepared to abandon aircraft but, when half-way out of the cockpit, he observed an enemy aircraft fly past him. He immediately regained his seat and shot down the enemy aircraft. Squadron Leader Stephens finally, left his crippled aircraft by parachute and landed safely on the ground where be beat out the flames from his burning clothing. Although he had landed within 300 yards of .the enemy's lines, Squadron Leader Stephens succeeded in regaining our own territory within threequarters of an hour. Throughout, this officer displayed great courage and devotion to duty.
Previously, Squadron Leader Stephens led his squadron on operations which were of the greatest value during the battle for Tobruk. His leadership and example proved an inspiration."
"From the 8th to 15th October, 1942 this officer has destroyed five enemy aircraft in air combats over Malta. On one occasion he followed an enemy bomber down to sea level and, after pursuing it out to sea for some 20 miles, shot it down into the water. He was afterwards attacked by six enemy fighters but he destroyed one of them and fought the others off. Although his aircraft was badly damaged he flew it to base and made a crashlanding.
This officer has greatly enhanced the gallant reputation he so worthily holds."
Third DFC awarded as second bar for on the ribbon of the first DFC.