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Dennis David - Even successful aces became exhausted

William Dennis David was born in Surbiton, Surrey on 25th July 1918 and spent his early childhood at Tongwynlais, a village near Cardiff. The family moved again and he went to Surbiton County School. He left school at 14 and went to work for his uncle in his footwear and clothing business.

David joined the RAFVR in April 1937 as an Airman u/t Pilot before joining the regular RAF as a candidate for a short service commission. He began his elementary flying training at 5 E&RFTS Hanworth on 4th April 1938. After a short induction course at No. 1 RAF Depot Uxbridge, David was posted to 5 FTS Sealand. In late 1938 David was in the Fighter Pool at RNAS Ford, awaiting a posting. In early 1939 he joined 87 Squadron at Debden and flew to France on 9th September 1939. He damaged a He111 on 2nd November.

The German blitzkrieg was launched on 10th May 1940 and he became an ace very quickly.

  • On 10th May, David claimed a He111 and a Do17 destroyed and shared another Do17

  • He shot down a Ju87 and a Do17 on the 11th May

  • an He111 on the 12th May

  • an He111 on the 14th and shared another

  • He shared a Me109 on the 16th

  • damaged two Me109s on the 18th.

  • On the 19th May he got a probable Me109, shot down a Me110, probably another and shared a He111.

In a period of leave from France, Dennis went home to his parents’ house and slept without moving for 36 hours. His mother became quite concerned and actually called the doctor, who said that he was completely exhausted and should just be left to sleep (See Patrick Bishop, 'Fighter Boys', p174).

87 Squadron was withdrawn to Debden on the 22nd and then went to Church Fenton to refit. David was awarded the DFC (gazetted 31st May 1940) and Bar (gazetted 4th June 1940), the citations crediting him with eleven enemy aircraft destroyed.

His success during the Battle of Britain continued unabated.

  • 11th August he claimed a Me109 and a Ju88 destroyed

  • 13th August a Ju87 destroyed

  • 15th August a Ju87 destroyed and a Me110 probably destroyed

  • 25th August two Ju88s destroyed

  • 15th September an He 111.

David was posted to 213 Squadron at Tangmere on 16th September as ‘B’ Flight Commander. He destroyed a Ju88 on 19th October. He rejoined 87 Squadron on 23rd October before going to 152 Squadron at Warmwell on 13th November as a Flight Commander.

F/Lt Dennis David (left)

David was made a CBE (gazetted 1st January 1960) and retired on 26th May 1967 as a Group Captain. He set up an engineering business, Dove Enterprises and was in demand as a lecturer plus advising on films such as the Battle of Britain (1969) and Aces High (1974). David was president of the Hurricane Society and gave his time to the RAF Benevolent Fund and Royal Air Forces Association. He later restored antique furniture and china and wrote a memoir, Dennis 'Hurricane' David (1999). In 1991 he was made a Freeman of the City of London.

David died on 25th August 2000.

His portrait was made by Cuthbert Orde (see above).

Photos and text courtesy of Battle of Britain Monument website

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