Bobby Oxspring

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Robert Wardlow Oxspring
Bobby Oxspring by Cuthbert Orde.jpg
Bobby Oxspring by Cuthbert Orde, 1940
Nickname(s) Bobby or Oxo
Born (1919-05-22)22 May 1919
Sheffield, England
Died 8 August 1989(1989-08-08) (aged 70)
Buried at Cranwell, Lincolnshire
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Air Force
Years of service 1938–1968
Rank Group Captain
Service number 40743
Unit No. 66 Squadron RAF
No. 41 Squadron RAF
Commands held No. 91 Squadron RAF
No. 222 Squadron RAF
No. 24 Wing RAF
Battles/wars World War II
 • Battle of Britain
Awards Distinguished Flying Cross & Two Bars
Air Force Cross
Airman's Cross (Netherlands)

Group Captain Robert Wardlow "Bobby" Oxspring, DFC & Two Bars, AFC, (22 May 1919 – 8 August 1989) was a British Spitfire[1] pilot with the Royal Air Force during World War II.

Early life and family[edit]

Oxspring was born in Sheffield on 22 May 1919.[2] His father, also named Robert, had served in No. 54 Squadron RFC, and was a founder member and commander[3] of No. 66 Squadron RFC during World War I, in which he was credited with several aerial victories, and was twice awarded the Military Cross[4] before being wounded in action during a mid-air collision on 30 April 1917.[5]

Military career[edit]

Oxspring was granted a short service commission as an acting pilot officer on 7 May 1938,[6] being described at the time as "a tallish, good-looking, fair-headed bloke",[7] and served in No. 66 Squadron RAF.[8] He was regraded to pilot officer on 7 March 1939.

Known as one of the Battle of Britain's great aces,[9] he was one of the fraction of The Few selected by Fighter Command to have a portrait drawn by Cuthbert Orde, sitting for it on 9 December 1940.

Flying throughout the Battle of Britain, Oxspring was promoted to flying officer on 3 September 1940,[10] and on 25 October was shot down in Spitfire X4170 near Capel, Kent.[11]

On 8 November 1940 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The citation read:

One day in September, 1940, Flight Lieutenant Oxspring was engaged on an offensive patrol with his squadron. Whilst acting as rear guard, he sighted and engaged several Messerschmitt 109's 3,000 feet above. After driving them off, he led his section in an attack against a large formation of enemy bombers and succeeded in destroying a Dornier 17 at short range and also in damaging two Heinkel III's. He has at all times led his section with skill and determination, and has destroyed six enemy aircraft.[12]

Promoted to flight lieutenant (war-substantive) on 3 September 1941,[13] he became flight commander in No. 41 Squadron RAF,[14] and went on to command No. 91 Squadron RAF at RAF Hawkinge,[15] No. 222 Squadron RAF[16] and 24 Wing.[17]

He was awarded a bar to his DFC on 18 September 1942, with the citation:

This squadron commander has rendered much valuable service. His skill, whether in attacks on the enemy's ground targets and shipping or in air combat, has been of a high order. He has destroyed at least 7 enemy aircraft.[18]

Moving to Mediterranean combat, it is thought probable that Oxspring was the pilot who shot down renowned German ace Anton Hafner of JG 51 on 2 January 1943.[19]

Having led his squadron to be the highest scoring in the North African theatre, and survived his second shooting down of the war,[11] Oxspring was awarded a second bar to his DFC in February 1943, with the citation:

During initial operations from forward airfields in North Africa Squadron Leader Oxspring led his formation on many sorties. He destroyed one enemy aircraft, bringing his total victories to 8. His outstanding devotion to duty and fine fighting qualities have been worthy of high praise.[20]

On 1 January 1944 he was promoted to temporary squadron leader,[21] and was promoted to squadron leader (war-substantive) on 15 June 1944.[22] the rank he held when the conflict ceased in 1945.


During the war he had registered 13 solo kills with 2 shared, 2 probable kills and 4 solo V-1 flying bombs destroyed and 1 shared.[14]

After the war, on 10 January 1947, he was one of the British officers given royal recognition of the award of the Dutch Airman's Cross.[23] He was also awarded the 1939–1945 Star with Battle of Britain clasp, the Air Crew Europe Star with France and Germany clasp, the Italy Star, and the War Medal 1939–1945.[24]

He stayed on in the RAF, receiving a permanent commission as a flight lieutenant on 1 September 1945, and being promoted to substantive squadron leader on 1 August 1947.[25][26]

He was awarded the Air Force Cross on 1 January 1949,[27] after leading No. 54 Squadron RAF Vampires to Canada and the USA, the first jet aircraft to cross the Atlantic.[28]

Promotion came twice more, to wing commander on 1 January 1953,[29] and finally group captain on 1 January 1960.[30]

He was appointed Station Commander of RAF Gatow in Berlin, where a section of the fence was the Berlin Wall. He retired on 23 February 1968.[28]

Later life[edit]

Oxspring wrote the book Spitfire Command (1987, Grafton, ISBN 978-0-586-07068-0;[31] republished 2003 by Cerberus, ISBN 978-1-84145-033-9).[32]

Oxspring died on 8 August 1989, and is buried at Cranwell Parish church, Lincolnshire.[33]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Price, Alfred (1997). Spitfire Mark V Aces 1941–45. Osprey Publishing. p. 92. ISBN 978-1-85532-635-4. 
  2. ^ "Group Captain Bobby Oxspring". Cranston Fine Arts. Retrieved 1 January 2017. 
  3. ^ Reid, John P. M. (1960). Some Of The Few. Macdonald, London. 
  4. ^ "No. 30095". The London Gazette (Supplement). 25 May 1917. p. 5179. 
  5. ^ Hill, Dean; Reeves, Stuart. "Robert Oxspring". Sheffield Soldiers of The Great War. Retrieved 1 January 2017. 
  6. ^ "No. 34513". The London Gazette. 24 May 1938. p. 3357. 
  7. ^ Bishop, Patrick (2003). Fighter boys: Saving Britain 1940. HarperCollins. p. 318. ISBN 978-0-00-257169-2. 
  8. ^ Paterson, Michael (2004). Battle for the Skies. David & Charles. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-7153-1815-7. 
  9. ^ Robertson, Terence (1963). Dieppe: the shame and the glory. Little, Brown. p. 204. OCLC 525857. 
  10. ^ "No. 34986". The London Gazette. 5 November 1940. p. 6395. 
  11. ^ a b "Bobby Oxspring". Timehonoured.com. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  12. ^ "No. 34987". The London Gazette. 8 November 1940. p. 6440. 
  13. ^ "No. 35366". The London Gazette. 2 December 1941. p. 6895. 
  14. ^ a b Hall, Peter (2001). No 91 'Nigeria' Sqn. Osprey Publishing. p. 122. ISBN 978-1-84176-160-2. 
  15. ^ Potter, John Deane (1970). Fiasco: the break-out of the German battleships. Stein and Day. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-8128-1276-3. 
  16. ^ Franks, Norman L. R. (1992). The greatest air battle: Dieppe, 19th August 1942. Grub Street. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-948817-58-8. 
  17. ^ Thomas, Andrew; Davey, Chris (2008). Griffon Spitfire Aces. Osprey Publishing. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-84603-298-1. 
  18. ^ "No. 35709". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 September 1942. p. 4059. 
  19. ^ "Anton 'Toni' Hafner". Aces of the Luftwaffe. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  20. ^ "No. 35904". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 February 1943. p. 812. 
  21. ^ "No. 36340". The London Gazette (Supplement). 18 January 1944. p. 408. 
  22. ^ "No. 36639". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 August 1944. p. 3616. 
  23. ^ "No. 37849". The London Gazette. 10 January 1947. p. 226. 
  24. ^ "Oxspring, Robert Wardlow "Oxo"". World War 2 Awards. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  25. ^ "No. 37518". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 April 1946. p. 1626. 
  26. ^ "No. 38035". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 August 1947. p. 3661. 
  27. ^ "No. 38493". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1948. p. 31. 
  28. ^ a b "Group Captain Bobby Oxspring". Military Print Company. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  29. ^ "No. 39739". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1952. p. 53. 
  30. ^ "No. 41915". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1959. p. 67. 
  31. ^ British book news. British Council. 1987. p. 430. OCLC 1537139. 
  32. ^ "Spitfire Command (Fortunes of War)". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  33. ^ Kemp, Andy. "Update Archive". 66 Squadron. Retrieved 1 January 2017.