Malan was a South African who had received an early training as a Sea Cadet at the South African Merchant Navy Academy before the War. He was to join the Union Castle Line. However, as war loomed, he joined the RAF and came to England where he got his flying training.
By December 1936, he had got his Wings and joined 74 Squadron, which was the only squadron he was to serve on. He made it famous.
Apart from his extremely strong character, which gave him great leadership potential, he was a first class shot, considered the best in the whole of Fighter Command. He was also a very determined pilot. He duly became Commanding Officer of 74 Squadron which he led with confidence and élan.
He was to set out 10 golden rules to be followed by the RAF fighter pilot.
Malan’s first taste of action was over Dunkirk, during which, in combat, he succeeded in shooting down no less than 3 enemy aircraft and sharing in the destruction of 6 more. He was subsequently awarded the DFC. This was followed by continuous action as the Battle of Britain developed. After several moves, including periods at Hornchurch and Wittering, 74 Squadron ended up at Biggin Hill where, under Malan’s leadership, it went from strength to strength. He ended his flying career in Britain with 32 victories, together with a number of instances where he had contributed to a kill.
He was a not untypical South African, with all the strength and conviction of the young men of the Dominion. After the Battle he had an extremely successful flying career. He ended the war as a Group Captain.
After the War, he became a leading light amongst those ex-servicemen in South Africa who fought against Apartheid. He was not always the easiest character to get on with. He had a very high standard when flying and expected his fellow pilots to achieve the same.