Wing Commander Don KINGABY, DSO, AFC, DFM**
Don Kingaby Autobiography
On leaving Kings School, Ely, I worked in an insurance office, but soon took an interest in flying, which became an obsession of my young life. In 1939 I joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and was so filled with enthusiasm that my one desire was to be a fighter pilot. By the summer of 1940 I had qualified and was posted to 266 Squadron.
I was soon transferred to 92 Squadron and went straight into the thick of the Battle of Britain. On 12th October 1940, I shot down my first Messerschmitt in a battle in which 92 Squadron had tackled over 50 aircraft above the town of Rochester, Kent. During the next fortnight there was hectic fighting over the South Coast, and I shot down two Me 109’s, an Me 110 and a Dornier 17. On 15th November, 1940, I managed to destroy four Me 109’s in the one day.
Later in the month I was awarded the DFM. Not long afterwards, to my amusement, the daily press christened me “The 109 Specialist” because most of my victories had been against this particular aircraft type.
But I did not get away entirely scot free. On one occasion, after finishing a patrol, I had just landed at Manston and was walking away from my aircraft.
When a formation of Messerschmitts made a lightning attack on the airfield. I threw myself to the ground as I saw the flashes and felt the thud of the bullets hammer into the earth all around me. I was extremely lucky to get away from this attack with only one smashed finger-it was the only wound I received throughout the whole of the war.
After the Battle of Britain the RAF went over to the offensive in 1941 and No. 92 Squadron was detailed to fly sweeps into Northern France. In the summer of 1941 I added several Messerschmitts to my score.
As my experience accumulated, my flying and air-fighting became more and more instinctive, which helped enormously in the eternal contest to position oneself better than one’s opponent in the “dog fight”.
When the Battle of Britain was at its height we were often flying our Spitfires on as many as five sorties each day. Because I had my first success in combat with 92 Squadron it has always been close to my heart. On November 15th 1940 I managed to shoot down four Me 109’s in one day which, for me, was truly memorable. I continued to fly with ‘92’ after the Battle of Britain and had the satisfaction of carrying the fight into the enemy’s camp when we started flying offensive sorties over Northern France.
In 1943 I led the Hornchurch Wing whilst commanding 122 Squadron. After a rest from operational flying I was recalled to ops in April 1944 to lead a wing of Spitfires, including No. 350 Belgian Squadron, providing low-level cover to the Normandy invasion forces. Between 1942 and 1944 I led fighter escorts to cover over 100 daylight bombing raids by V.S.AF. At the end of the war I accepted a permanent Commission in the R.A.F.
Before I was commissioned I became the first and only Royal Air Force pilot to be awarded three Distinguished Flying Medals, an achievement which in later years became the subject of an entry in the Guinness Book of Records. I ended the war with a final score of 23 enemy aircraft destroyed, 8 probables and 16 damaged.
From 1949-1952 I commanded 72 Squadron, leading the squadron’s formation aerobatic team. This team was the first to roll 7 jets in formation aerobatics and blazed a trail for the later excellent formation aerobatic teams of the RAF.
Notes on Aircraft flown in Combat, 1939-45
Throughout the war I flew Spitfires on 450 operational missions. The types of Spitfire were the Mk 1, 2, 5b, 9a and 12. There is no doubt that, in its time, the Spitfire was the finest fighter aircraft ever built. My favourite was the Spitfire 9( a) which, with its 2-stage supercharger, gave us supremacy over the Focke Wulf 190.