Robert Alfred Copsey Carter CB DSO DFC A.F.R.Ae.S
Retired Air Commodore Robert Carter passed away a few years ago at the grand old age of 102. He will have been familiar to many who have read Don Charlwood’s book No Moon Tonight as OC 103 Squadron at the time of Don’s tour.
He is an interesting man who was OC 103 Sqn during a most challenging period which is worthy of an article in its own right and I will return to that before the end of the year
Above Robert Carter portrait by Eric Kennington 1941
Robert Alfred Copsey Carter was born into a naval family in Portsmouth on September 15, 1910, and was brought up by his aunt and uncle when his parents went to Uganda. Inspired by the Sopwith biplanes he saw operating from Fort Grange Airfield, Gosport, he decided on an RAF rather than naval career.
He won a scholarship to the RAF College at Cranwell, graduating as a pilot officer in 1932 and was posted to India on the North West Frontier. Here he flew the Westland Wapiti two seater light bomber biplanes.
By 1938 he had returned to the UK and was in command of DH82 “Queen Bee” pilotless aircraft unit at Weybourne in Norfolk. During the war he served in Bomber Command as OC 150 Squadron from June to Dec 1941 and was awarded a DFC - see citation below
“In July, 1941, large-scale attacks were made on German warships at Brest and La Pallice (including the "Gneisenau," "Scharnhorst "and "Prinz Eugen ").A smaller attack was made on Cherbourg. The operations were carried out in daylight and extremely heavy and accurate anti-aircraft fire and fighter opposition were encountered by all aircraft when approaching the targets, which at Brest was protected by a balloon barrage. The air crews engaged succeeded, nevertheless, in securing direct hits on their objectives and in inflicting very severe damage in the target area. During the combats with enemy fighters 21 hostile aircraft were destroyed and others were severely damaged. The precise timing of attack by the various formations of aircraft and their correct approach to and accurate bombing of the objectives in the face of such powerful opposition; demanded great skill and high courage. The great success of these operations was largely due to the bravery, determination and resource displayed by the following officers and airmen, who. participated in various capacities as leaders and members of the aircraft crews.”
He was posted to 103 Squadron as OC in Sept 1942 during the difficult period of conversion from Wellingtons to Halifaxes. A few months later the Squadron converted again from Halifaxes to Lancasters. In April 1943 he became OC at RAF Grimsby till 1944 and then was promoted then promoted to a staff job at Bomber Command.
Following the war, in 1947, he was sent to the United States Armed Forces Staff College where he met his future wife Sally Peters from Virginia.
The couple returned to England in 1948 and in 1950 Air Commodore Carter was posted as the chief instructor and later director of organisation at the Royal New Zealand Air Force School of Administration.
In 1953 the family moved back to England where he was the Station Commander RAF Upwood Bomber Command (Lincolns and Canberras), then Senior Air Staff Officer Transport Command.
He was awarded the CB in Jan 1956. A posting to Germany was followed by retirement in 1964, when the couple settled in Whaddon. Robert Carter died at Ashley Grange Nursing Home in Downton in 2012.
This item is based on the obit to Robert Carter which appeared in the Salisbury Journal - 15th Nov 2012.