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Don Kingaby

Wing Commander (Sergeant during the Battle) Don Kingaby, DSO, AFC, DFM and two bars, Battle of Britain fighter pilot, died in Westfield, Massachusetts, on December 31 1990 aged 70. He was born in London on January 7, 1920.

Don Kingaby had, as pilots go, a long career of continuous combat during the second world war and ended up as one of the RAF’s top scoring aces. He was in operational squadrons from just before the onset of the Battle of Britain until after the D-Day landings and his tally of kills was spread throughout that period with a consistency that indicated remarkable resistance to battle weariness. Of his formidable tally of decorations, his three Distinguished Flying Medals are in themselves unique (and an indication of the relatively long time he spent as a non-commissioned officer) when combined with his later Distinguished Service Order; this was the reward of his leadership as a flight and then squadron commander in the years when the allied air forces were getting on top of the German defences. His Air Force Cross (a non-combat medal) was earned in a different sphere in 1952 when he had become an aerobatic specialist on Vampire jets.

Like the best of the generation that contested the long hot summer of 1940 with the pick of the Luftwaffe's pilots, Kingaby combined what seemed a nonchalant approach to his duties with a relentless desire to be at the throat of the enemy. On the ground a pleasure-loving, buoyant young man with a particular love of partying, he was, like his great compatriots Malan, Bader and Stanford-Tuck transformed into a perfectly tuned fighting machine as soon as he was airborne. Only an icy application to his craft and relentless powers of concentration over prolonged periods could have seen him through a succession of exhausting days on which he several times engaged three or more enemy aircraft.

A clergyman's son, Donald Ernest Kingaby joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in April 1939 at the age of 19. He was called up when war broke out in September. In June 1940 he was posted as a sergeant pilot to 266 squadron. He had less than a month's operational flying with it (during which he did, however, damage two Ju88 bombers and a Me110 twin-engined fighter) before being transferred to 92 squadron in September. The squadron was an outfit congenial to his own temper, renowned for its fighting prowess if not for its smartness of uniform and deportment when not in the air. Like Kingaby a large proportion of its pilots were auxiliaries and did not take kindly to what they saw as unnecessary discipline. This had not the slightest effect on a fighting efficiency which gave the squadron its 100th combat victory by October 1940. By this time the Battle of Britain proper is generally reckoned to have been over as the Germans switched their bombers to night attacks on Britain's cities. But the daylight offensive was continued by their fighters and set Fighter Command new and difficult problems, involving its aircrews in often long climbs and fruitless chases of a much more elusive target than that which had been presented by the bombers. Thrown into the thick of this less rewarding form of combat Kingaby soon demonstrated his superb skills as a pilot, shooting down four enemy aircraft, of which three were Me109’s, in the second half of October. In the next month he shot down six Me109’s, four of them in a single astonishing day, November 15.

This prolific scoring continued into the new year when Fighter Command went onto the offensive with its sweeps over the continent. This was by no means a fruitful period for many RAF pilots - and losses were rather high - but with a dozen more kills to his credit Kingaby was soon being referred to by the press as the "109 specialist".

In October 1941 he was commissioned and taken off operations so that his experience could be put at the service of a training unit. But by March 1942 he was back in the conflict with 111 squadron. By this time a new adversary had appeared, the Focke-Wulf 190, the most formidable interceptor to be fielded by the Luftwaffe to that date and a match for the Spitfire V. But Kingaby took it in his stride and soon became as noted for his capacity to knock the Fw190 out of the sky as he had the Me109.
Later in the war Kingaby was posted to 122 squadron as, successively, a flight and then squadron commander and in March 1943 was promoted to lead the Hornchurch wing. After a further period at Fighter Command HQ he was again back as a wing leader in the summer of 1944 in the air battles which raged over the invasion of occupied France. His last "bag", a share in a Me109 on June 30, was his last combat victory, bringing his total to 23. He also claimed eight probables. After the war he was given a permanent commission and in the 1950’s took naturally to jet aircraft.

He retired in 1958 and several years ago moved with his wife, Helen, to join their two daughters, Patricia and Susan, in the United States.

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