A Visit From The King!

King George VI meeting pilots of 485 (New Zealand) Squadron. L-R (visible) Sgt. Stan Browne, P/O Bruce Gibbs, P/O Evan Mackie, F/Lt. John Kilian (shaking hands with The King), Sgt. Mick Maskill, HM the King, F/Lt. Reg Grant, Air Marshal Sir W. Sholto-Douglas.
R.A.F. Kenley by Peter Flint.
His Majesty The King talking to some No. 485 Squadron pilots during his visit to RAF Station Kenley. L-R: Wearing Mae Wests, Stan Browne, BE Gibbs, JRC Kilian, ED Mackie.
Air Force Museum of New Zealand MUS980738

On 29th April, 1942, R.A.F. Kenley received an unpublicised visit from King George VI, accompanied by Sir Sholto Douglas.

He observed the Kenley Wing going out on a “sweep,” and watched the sortie plotted on the Operations Room table at The Grange, in Old Coulsdon. The squadrons crossed the French coast at Hardelot, and, after a series of inconclusive engagements with F.W.190s, turned for home to the east of Calais. The King listened in to the commentary coming from Spitfire BM155, including the pilots’ cursing and swearing! 

The King met the pilots of No.485 and No.602 squadrons  at the airfield after they landed while No.452 squadron had to be brought to Kenley by bus from their base at Redhill.

Flying Officer James Harry “Ginger” Lacey, was introduced to the King as the pilot who had shot down the Heinkel that bombed Buckingham Palace on 13th September, 1940. He confessed that he was unaware that the bomber had been anywhere near the Palace at the time.

While talking to the King, Lacey noticed that the Mess bar had opened and politely asked him if he would like a drink – an offer which was accepted:

Lacey, meaning no disrespect, uttered the words which came naturally to every RAF officer. He turned to the barman: “Two beers, please.” The King drank his without hesitation, and it was only when Lacey noticed a frown on the face of the C-in-C Fighter Command and some apprehension on the faces of the Staff and the CO, that he gave the matter any thought. He noticed that when the King had his next drink, it was a glass of sherry.

Quote from “Ginger Lacey, Fighter Pilot” by Richard Townsend-Bickers

  • R.A.F. Kenley by Peter Flint.
  • ‘Spitfire, The New Zealand Story’ by Gerard Morris.

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