Alan Deere, copyright RAF Museum Archive, Hendon

Deere was a New Zealander born in 1917. He was brought up in a rural environment. As a youngster he witnessed a civilian biplane land on the beach near to where he lived. He was shown over the aircraft by the pilot and thenceforward determined to learn to fly when he was old enough.

In his teens, he was recruited by an RAF team who was scouting for potential talent to fly the new monoplane aircraft coming into service with the RAF. He duly joined the RAF in 1937 in England.

He was granted a short service commission in 1938. He completed his flying training in that year and in September 1938, he joined 54 Squadron flying Gloster Gladiators. The Squadron was converted to Spitfires in January 1940. He fell in love with the new aircraft and thought it the most wonderful plane. He began his operational career over France when flying “cover” for the BEF during the evacuation of Dunkirk. He flew on an extraordinary mission with a fellow pilot, escorting a Miles Magister light aircraft to rescue the CO of 74 Squadron who had been shot down over Calais. The mission was successful in finding and rescuing the stranded officer but during the operation the RAF fighters were attacked by Me109s. Deere promptly shot two of them down. Not content with that, later that afternoon, he shot down a third Me109.

He had several more victories over France, shooting down three Me110s, and was duly awarded the DFC. before being shot down himself on May 28th. This time, he had to ditch his Spitfire and managed to do so in shallow water just off the Belgian coast. He then made his way to embark on a destroyer, meeting a somewhat cold reception in the ward room as the air force were thought not to be doing their bit to protect the troops waiting to embark from the beaches. He then arrived back at Hornchurch 19 hours after taking off on this particular operation.

During the Battle of Britain, Deere played an extremely active part in operations. He scored a number of victories in the fighting and was shot down himself on several further occasions. He also experienced some remarkably narrow escapes. The most hair raising was when, together with 2 other aircraft, he was taking off during a German raid. The blast from an exploding bomb hit all three aircraft. Deere’s plane was turned on its back. He was rescued by one of the other pilots who had, however, sustained injuries. When released from his aircraft, Deere managed to carry the wounded pilot to his sick quarters. On another occasion he collided head on with an Me109. The propeller of his aircraft was forced right back horizontally, yet he managed to glide his stricken plane back to the coast and landed in a field.

After the Battle, he was one of those pilots sent to America to lecture of his experiences. Subsequently, Deere had a very successful career in the RAF ending up as an Air Vice Marshal.