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Geoffrey Page - founding member of the Guinea Pig Club

Alan Geoffrey Page was born at Boxmoor, Hertfordshire on 16th May 1920. He was educated at Cheltenham College and London University. He had already decided to become a pilot but his uncle, Sir Frederick Handley Page, the aircraft manufacturer, persuaded him to take an engineering course.

Whilst there he learned to fly at Northolt with the University Air Squadron.

Called to full-time service in mid-September 1939, Page was posted to 3 ITW Hastings in October. He went to FTS Cranwell in mid-November. At the end of the course in May 1940 he was posted to No. 1 Fighter Pilot Unit at Meir for further training. A few days later he was posted to 66 Squadron but on 6th June moved to 56 Squadron at Digby.

On 13th July Page destroyed a Me109, on the 20th he shared a Ju88 and on the 25th destroyed a Ju87. During an attack on Do17s ten miles north of Margate on 12th August, Page was shot down and baled out, badly burned. He was rescued by tender and transferred to the Margate lifeboat. His Hurricane, P2970, crashed in flames two miles off Epple Bay.

Page was in hospital for over two years. He underwent plastic surgery at the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead and was a founder-member of the Guinea Pig Club. In late 1942, with a limited flying category, he was posted to an army co-operation squadron in Wales. After three months Page applied for another medical board and was given an AIB category.

Above: Founding members of the Guinea Pig Club – standing L to R Tom Gleave, Dr Russell Davies (an anaesthetist at QVH), John Hughes, Michael Coote, Archibald McIndoe. Seated are Geoffrey Page and Peter Weekes.

Image courtesy of West Sussex Record Office.

He was posted to 132 Squadron at Hornchurch in early 1943 as supernumerary Flight Lieutenant. He volunteered for service in North Africa but after three months there the heat of the sun was too much for his grafted skin. Page returned to England and was posted to AFDU Wittering. On 29th June 1943, in company with one-armed S/Ldr. JA MacLachlan, he flew a Mustang on a daylight sortie, in the course of which he destroyed two Hs126s and shared a Ju88. On a second sortie on 1st July MacLachlan failed to return.

Page was awarded the DFC (gazetted 30th July 1943).

After a further spell at East Grinstead he was posted to 122 Squadron as a Flight Commander. In January 1944 Page was given command of 13 Squadron at Detling. On 26th April he shared a Junkers W34 and on the 29th shot down a Me110. In June Page took 122 squadron to France. On the 18th he damaged a Fw190. On this day Page, aged 24, was promoted to Acting Wing Commander and appointed Wing Leader of 125 Wing.

On 12th July 1944 he shared a Me109, on the 14th destroyed a Fw190 and damaged another and on 20th July and 26th September he shot down Me109s. A few days later Page’s aircraft was damaged by flak over the Arnhem bridgehead and he crashed on landing, injured his face on his gunsight and fractured his back. He was flown back to England and taken to the Queen Victoria Hospital at East Grinstead.

He was awarded the DSO (gazetted 29th December 1944) being then credited with fifteen enemy aircraft destroyed.

On 1st January 1945 Page was sent on a lecture tour to the USA. There he met his wife, Pauline, daughter of the actor Nigel Bruce who played Dr Watson to Basil Rathbone in many Sherlock Holmes films. The couple were married in 1946. He returned to the UK in April and went into hospital to have a piece of cannon shell removed from his leg that had been there since August 1940. Fit again, Page was attached to Vickers-Armstrong at Weybridge as a test pilot. Granted a Permanent Commission in 1946, Page commanded 64 Squadron, operating the Hornet, before being posted as PA to the senior RAF Officer on the Military Staff Commission at the UN in New York. He retired from the RAF on 1st December 1948 as a Squadron Leader and joined Vickers-Armstrong as a sales executive.

Page later established himself in Switzerland as an international aviation consultant. He was also active in the Battle of Britain Fighter Pilots Association and was the moving force behind the creation, in 1993, of the Battle of Britain Memorial sited on the cliffs at Capel-le-Ferne near Dover.

He died on 3rd August 2000.

Photos and text courtesy of Battle of Britain Monument website

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