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George Denholm - an accomplished leader

George Lovell Denholm was born on 20th December 1908 in Bo'ness, West Lothian on the shore of the River Forth.

His father's company imported props for coal mines. George Denholm attended Cargifield Prep School in Edinburgh before going on to Fettes School.

After Fettes he went to St. Johns College, Cambridge where he read Economics and Law.

After graduating George entered the family business. As a diversion from his work, Denholm took flying lessons with the Edinburgh Flying Club which led to him applying for membership of 603 Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 27th June 1933, promoted to Flying Officer on 27th December 1934, Flying Instructor in July 1937 and Flight Lieutenant on 8th January 1939.

Above: 603 Squadron in early 1940.

Standing: Sgt. JR Caister, F/O IS Ritchie, P/O JS Morton, P/O GK Gilroy, P/O A Barton, WO I Dalziel

Seated: F/Lt. JGE Haig, F/Lt. GL Denholm, S/Ldr. EH Stevens, F/O HK MacDonald, F/O A Wallace

Above image courtesy of the Denholm family via David Ross.

He was mobilised with 603 Squadron on 23rd August 1939 at Turnhouse but initially there was little activity. By the time he took command of 603 in June 1940 it was equipped with Spitfires and stationed at Drem in Scotland. At 32, Denholm was considered to be rather old by his youthful pilots and he was subsequently christened 'Uncle George'. However it was Denholm who brought down the first German aircraft on UK soil in WWII when he had a share in bringing down a He111 on 16th October 1939 and further aircraft in following months whilst in Scotland.

The squadron moved to Hornchurch on 27 August and the number of aircraft he damaged or destroyed increased further still. He claimed a Me109 destroyed and another probable on 28th August. In combat with Me110s over Deal on 30th August Denholm was shot down and bailed out, his Spitfire L1067 crashing at Hope Farm, Snargate. On 1st September Denholm claimed a Me109 damaged; on the 15th damaged a Me109 and two Do17s, the last engagement resulting in him being shot down at Warren Farm, Fairlight.

On 18th September he claimed a Me109 damaged; a shared Me109 destroyed, a probable Me109 and a shared probable Me109 on the 27th; a Me109 damaged on 20th October; a Me109 destroyed on 11th November; and a Me110 destroyed on 29th November.

Denholm was awarded the DFC (gazetted 22nd October 1940). He relinquished command of 603 in April 1941 and was posted as Fighter Controller to the Operations Room at Turnhouse.

He was awarded a Mention in Despatches in 1945 and released from the RAF in 1947 as a Group Captain and re-joined the family business.

Denholm died on 16th June 1997.

Photo and text courtesy of Battle of Britain Monument website

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