Desmond J. Scott

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Desmond James Scott
Nickname(s) "Scottie"
Born 11 September 1918
Ashburton, New Zealand
Died 8 October 1997 (aged 79)
Allegiance  New Zealand
Service/branch  Royal Air Force
Years of service 1940–1945
Rank Group Captain
Commands held 123 (Typhoon) Wing
No. 486 Squadron RNZAF
Battles/wars Second World War
Awards Distinguished Service Order
Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Flying Cross & Bar
Croix de guerre (France)
Croix de guerre (Belgium)
Commander of the Order of Orange-Nassau (Netherlands)

Group Captain Desmond James Scott, DSO, OBE, DFC & Bar (11 September 1918 – 8 October 1997) was a New Zealand fighter pilot during the Second World War. He got his licence as a private pilot in New Zealand in 1939 and was automatically enlisted in the Royal New Zealand Air Force in September of that year. Arriving in Britain in September 1940, Scott flew for the Royal Air Force (RAF), rising through the ranks to become one of its youngest group captains.

Early life[edit]

Desmond Scott was born in Ashburton in the province of Canterbury, New Zealand on 11 September 1918. He was educated at Cathedral Grammar School in Christchurch, before becoming a salesman.

Pilot training[edit]

In the late 1930s, Scott joined the Territorial Army and became a trooper in the Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry. After an encounter with a New Zealand Permanent Air Force Bristol F.2 Fighter, Scott decided to become a pilot, enlisting with a local flying club, where he learned to fly a de Havilland Gypsy Moth. After a total of six and a half hours of dual instruction, Scott flew solo. Each hour of instruction cost 30 shillings and Scott was:

...saved from my creditors by a stroke of good fortune. Just prior to Hitler's indiscretions, our government introduced a scheme in which successful applicants were given 40 hours flying at the taxpayer's [sic] expense. Much to my surprise my application was successful. About the same time as I completed my 40 hours, England declared war on Germany. I promptly received a registered letter from our Air Department reminding me of a small clause at the bottom of our contract. Thus I was compelled to leave the cavalry and become a member of His Majesty's Junior Service.

— Desmond J. Scott, "One More Hour"[1]

Scott was sent for training to the Air Force base at Wigram Aerodrome, where he was teamed up with a Stan "Spud" Murphy to fly Fairey Gordons.[2]

In late 1940, Scott sailed to England as part of a contingent of New Zealand pilots from his course at Wigram. On arrival in Scotland in September, the New Zealanders were sent to the aircrew reception centre at Uxbridge.[3]

From Uxbridge Sergeant Scott was posted to RAF Fighter Command and commenced advanced training at RAF Sutton Bridge as a Hurricane pilot. After a week flying Miles Masters and North American Harvards, Scott was allowed to fly a Hurricane:

Flight Lieutenant Sing climbed onto the port wing and gave me my final instructions – brief and very much to the point. 'Good luck Scott. She's all yours. Break it and I'll break your ruddy fingers.' Such was my introduction to one of the nicest and most versatile aircraft I ever had the pleasure to fly.

— Desmond J. Scott, "One More Hour"[4]


In January 1941, Scott and E.L "Nipper" Joyce,[5] another New Zealander from Scott's Wigram course, were posted to 3 Squadron, which was then based at Skeabrae in the Orkney Islands, defending the nearby naval base at Scapa Flow. On 3 April 1941, 3 Squadron was transferred to Martlesham Heath near Ipswich and became part of 11 Group. On 9 April, they were joined by 71 ("Eagle") Squadron, and both units settled down to a quiet period of convoy patrols. Both units were equipped with Hurricane Marks IIA and IIB, armed with eight and 12 .303-inch Browning machine guns, respectively, although these were being changed for the improved Mark IIC, which was armed with four 20 mm Hispano cannon. It became apparent that 3 Squadron was expected to operate both by day and by night in a wide range of roles:

The reason for our shift south soon became obvious. Instead of waiting for the Luftwaffe to visit Britain, the hierarchy of the RAF had decided to take the air war into the enemy's domain. Not only were we expected to carry out attacks on enemy shipping and targets in Belgium and France, we were also expected to do night fighter patrols over London – a dual role that was versatile but very exhausting. We could cover most operations from Martlesham Heath, but fighter nights over London had to be carried out from Debden on account of its runways and better night-flying facilities. Thus we could be attacking shipping in the morning (Roadsteads), escorting Blenheim or Stirling bombers over France in the afternoon (Circuses) and flying defensive patrols over London on the same night.(NB Italics added)

— Desmond J. Scott, "One More Hour"[6]

Scott made his first claims on 7 August 1941, a pair of Bf-109s damaged over Le Touquet. During night intruder operations over the Netherlands, Scott was to claim several kills during the first half of 1942, totalling 3.5 claimed destroyed, 3 probables and 3 damaged.[7]

He was promoted flight sergeant in May 1942 before being commissioned in July, becoming a flight commander in August. In September, he received the DFC and bar, was promoted to squadron leader, and rested from operations, serving with HQ Fighter Command in a staff position.

In April 1943, he converted to the Hawker Typhoon and joined No. 198 Squadron as a squadron leader, before moving to command No. 486 Squadron (NZ), flying offensive fighter-bomber operations over Europe. In the next four months, he claimed another 2 destroyed and 2 shared destroyed. In August 1943, he received the DSO and became Wing Leader, RAF Tangmere.

In November 1943, he was rested and posted as Commanding Officer, RAF Hawkinge. In March 1944, he commanded the newly formed 123 Wing, flying Typhoons, taking the unit to Europe during mid-1944, and becoming the youngest group captain in the RNZAF. He finished his tour in February 1945. He was awarded the OBE for rescuing a pilot from a burning crashed aircraft.

His claims for the war were 5 (and 3 shared) aircraft destroyed, 4 (and 2 shared) 'probables', 5 (and 1 shared) damaged.[7]

In 1982, Scott wrote of his accounts in his book Typhoon Pilot. It has been reprinted several times.


  1. ^ Scott 1982, pp. XV-XVI.
  2. ^ Note: Stan Murphy was shot down over the Brest Peninsula in 1941 and spent the rest of the war as a POW. "Spud" Murphy's brother Frank would later become a squadron leader of No. 486 Squadron RNZAF, scoring at least five victories, then went on to become a production test pilot for Hawker Aircraft in early 1944.
  3. ^ Scott 1989, pp. 9–18.
  4. ^ Scott 1989, p. 19.
  5. ^ Note: A few months later, Joyce was posted to 73 Squadron in North Africa, where he shot down nine enemy aircraft. He became squadron leader of 122 Squadron, flying Mustang IIIs, in May 1944 and was killed in action over France on 17 June 1944.
  6. ^ Scott 1989, pp. 31–32.
  7. ^ a b Aces High; Shores & Williams, p. 538


  • Scott, Desmond. One More Hour. London: Arrow Books Ltd., 1989. ISBN 0-09-984440-0.
  • Scott, Desmond. Typhoon Pilot. London: Leo Cooper, 1982. ISBN 0-436-44428-3.
  • Shores, Christopher, and Williams, Clive. Aces High: A Tribute to the Most Notable Fighter Pilots of the British and Commonwealth Forces of WWII.
  • Sortehaug, Paul. The Wild Winds, The History of Number 486 RNZAF Fighter Squadron with the RAF. Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago University Press, 1998. ISBN 1-877139-09-2.

External links[edit]