Group Captain Roy Max DSO DFC
Group Captain Roy Max travelled from New Zealand to join the RAF as a pilot with 103 Squadron and survived the crippling losses of bombers deployed to France at the outbreak of WW2.
Already a veteran at 24, he was made a Wing Commander and appointed to command No 75 (NZ) Squadron, the first Commonwealth squadron in Bomber Command.
Shortly after the declaration of war in September 1939
No 103 Squadron, equipped with the Fairey Battle, deployed to France. Max flew patrols throughout the Phoney War, but when the German assault began on May 10 1940 the 10 Battle squadrons in France were immediately in action.
On one occasion Max dived on a group of enemy tanks in a valley and found that the guns were shooting down on him. His aircraft was hit and unable to climb. Although he and his gunner were wounded, he managed to land on a French airfield at Chalon.
Returning to operations a few days later, he was told that he had been awarded the Croix de Guerre and the news reached his parents and newspapers in New Zealand. In the chaos of the collapsing French administration, however, the paperwork was lost and he never received the medal.
By the middle of June No 103 had lost 18 aircraft and nine crews, and Max was lucky to survive when German bombers attacked the airfield as he was standing on the wing refuelling his aircraft. He jumped into a trench and watched his bomber burst into flames with all his belongings inside it. His Observer, Sgt Dowling was killed.
In the sole surviving aircraft he took off for a maintenance unit near Nantes, where a number of other Battles were found. Ground crew were loaded into the cramped cockpit of Max's aircraft and he headed towards England. He navigated using a map torn from a calendar, skirting the Channel Islands and landing at the first airfield he came to after crossing the English coast in order to determine where he was; he then pressed on to Abingdon.
The son of a farmer, Roy Douglas Max was born on November 24 1918 at Brightwater, near Nelson in New Zealand. After attending Nelson College he learned to fly at the local aero club when he was 18.
In 1937 the RAF needed pilots, and Max volunteered. After initial training in New Zealand, he left for England and was awarded a short service commission in the RAF in August 1938.
Returning from France, No 103 re-equipped with the Wellington bomber, and Max flew on the squadron's first operation bombing the docks at Ostend in December 1940. He also attacked targets in the Ruhr.
In March he was told to rest, and was sent to Canada to ferry American-built aircraft to Britain. Having delivered three Hudson bombers, he tired of being separated from his new wife and volunteered to return to 103.
On July 24 1941 a major daylight raid was mounted with 100 bombers against the German capital ships at Brest. Max was leading a section of Wellingtons with no fighter escort. Opposition was fierce but he pressed home his attack, and his bombs were seen exploding on a dry dock. He was awarded the DFC.
Max became the deputy chief instructor at a bomber training unit and found it almost as dangerous as operational flying - on one occasion his student crashed on to a small hilltop after missing the runway as he tried to land.
In July 1943 Max's short service commission was completed, and he reverted to the RNZAF as a squadron leader. Almost immediately he was informed that it had been decided that a native New Zealander should command No 75 (NZ) Squadron and he was promoted to wing commander.
Max began operations on August 19 1943, flying the Stirling bomber from an airfield near Cambridge. The Battle of Berlin was under way and the Stirling, unable to climb to the higher levels of the Lancaster and Halifax, suffered heavy losses. Max flew operations with his crew but, as the squadron commander, he was not expected to fly on every sortie. He found the lonely wait for the return of his young crews very stressful, and on some occasions he lost five in a single night. He insisted that it was his job to inform the next of kin, and he would spend the next morning writing personally to them, sometimes as many as 35 letters.
The Stirling was eventually withdrawn from long-range bombing operations, and Max and his crews flew mining sorties and parachute drops to resistance groups.
After converting to the Lancaster and flying a few more operations in support of the impending D-Day landings, his tour ended in May 1944, when he was awarded the DSO, an award that he always claimed belonged to his air and ground crews.
Max returned to New Zealand to command a flying training airfield near Christchurch. In 1947 he accepted a permanent commission in the RAF, returning to England as a flight lieutenant.
Having attended a course at the RAF Flying College he commanded the bomber squadron at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down, where the new jet bombers for the RAF were being tested.
He later commanded a night fighter squadron in Germany before returning to the Air Ministry, where he looked after the careers of junior aircrew. He then served at the Nato Headquarters in Naples.
As a group captain, Max commanded an air navigation school before taking up another job in the personnel department at the Air Ministry. In 1965 he was appointed an ADC to the Queen. He retired from the RAF in November 1968.
After a period as the secretary of the Ski Club of Great Britain he worked in the personnel and training department of Marconi Space and Defence Systems before retiring at 65, when he was able to pursue his golf with the EGG (Elderly Gentlemen Golfers), tend his garden and devote time to his 10 grandchildren.
Edited Daily Telegraph Obit - David Fell