Wing Commander Archie Boyd DSO DFC
Born in Sheffield June 20th 1918. Died April 4th 2014. Age 95
Wing Commander Archie Boyd, flew during the Battle of Britain and was later one of the RAF
’s most successful night fighter leaders.
In March 1943 Boyd was given command of No 219 Squadron, with the task of preparing it for an unknown destination overseas.
After re-equipping with the latest night-fighter version of the Beaufighter, and with a new air intercept radar, the squadron was ready to depart at the end of May.
Led by Boyd and his long-serving navigator, Alex Glegg, 18 aircraft headed for an airfield in Cornwall before leaving at five-minute intervals on the long flight across the Bay of Biscay to Gibraltar.
Operating from Bone in Algeria, the squadron was ready for action by the end of June, and two days later Boyd opened its account by shooting down two Junkers 88 bombers.
As the Axis forces were driven out of North Africa, No 219 moved to Tunisia to provide escorts for the convoys supporting the invasion of Sicily.
Towards the end of August, Boyd shot down another Junkers 88.
Following the advance into Italy, the squadron covered the landings at Salerno and provided an aircraft at constant readiness against German intruders attacking rear areas.
During this period Boyd and Glegg shot down two Heinkel 111 bombers – the second of these, on September 18, being the final success for No 219 in North Africa.
As the Luftwaffe became less active in that arena, the squadron returned to Britain in January 1944 to re-equip with the Mosquito.
Four months later Boyd’s long partnership with Alex Glegg came to an end.
They had been together since the Battle of Britain, flying no fewer than 595 sorties. Boyd was awarded a DSO for his ‘outstanding courage and initiative in action’, while Glegg received a Bar to the DFC he had earned earlier in the war.
Although the squadron was moved to Essex to cover the D-Day landings, it soon found itself chasing the V-1 ‘Doodlebugs’ launched by the enemy from sites in the Pas de Calais.
Boyd shot one of them down on June 15, but four days later an engine on his Mosquito caught fire – his laconic comment was: ‘The fire extinguisher did its stuff and we landed safely.’ He claimed a second V-1 and shortly afterwards was posted to HQ Fighter Command.
Archibald Douglas McNeill Boyd was born in Sheffield on June 20 1918 and educated at Harrow, where he was a sergeant in the OTC.
At Trinity College, Oxford, he joined the University Air Squadron and learned to fly before cutting short his studies on the outbreak of war to join the RAF.
Posted to No 600 (City of London) Squadron, which operated the obsolescent Blenheim fighter, he flew throughout the Battle of Britain on night sorties, but always said that he ‘didn’t really qualify as one of the Few’.
Notwithstanding this modest claim, he flew many night patrols from Manston in Kent during the German blitz on London.
When the squadron re-equipped with the potent Beaufighter in September, he flew the squadron’s first operational patrol with the aircraft.
Boyd remained with No 600 throughout 1941, when he was promoted to be the flight commander.
Based in south-west England, he accounted for a Junkers 88 near Exeter and two Heinkel 111 bombers off Cornwall.
He attacked these at night at very low level, and both he and Glegg were awarded DFCs.
During the spring of 1942 Boyd shot down two more enemy aircraft.
After almost two years of continuous night operations, he was rested in the autumn of 1942.
Six months later he took command of No 219 Squadron.
A particular feature of Boyd’s time on night fighters was his involvement with the development of radar.
His mechanical and electrical expertise was invaluable in troubleshooting the many early teething problems, as was his attention to detail.
An additional complication of operations in North Africa was the need to prevent the on-board radar technology falling into enemy hands, and this occasionally required long trips into the desert to locate Beaufighters downed by enemy action or mechanical failure, in order to recover the crucial parts.
At the end of the war Boyd became Air Attaché in Dublin before leaving the RAF in April 1946.
He received the Air Efficiency Award.
He then joined Vickers Armstrong as a test pilot, flying all the company’s aircraft including the Viscount, which he helped sell successfully around the world.
Much of his time was spent in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, and he found himself in Islamabad during Partition in 1947.
On one occasion, during a trip to Egypt, he fell ill with gastroenteritis early in the flight and retired to the back of the aircraft to sleep it off, leaving his co-pilot in charge.
He awoke when the co-pilot declared that he was on finals, and was alarmed to find that the aircraft had been lined up, flaps and wheels already down, to land along one of Cairo’s main streets.
With great sangfroid Boyd said: ‘I think I’ll take her now’ – and safely landed the plane at the airport.
In the late 1950s Boyd delivered Eva Peron’s private Vickers aircraft to Argentina, undertaking an extraordinary flight via Iceland and Greenland, then down the east coast of the United States and across the Caribbean, before the final leg south across the Amazon.
After leaving Vickers in 1961, he joined Richardsons Westgarth as chief executive, spending the remaining 25 years of his career with the company until his retirement in the early 1980s.
Boyd was a very capable cricketer, a fine fisherman, an excellent shot and a good golfer; but his approach to sport was essentially Corinthian, and he was never obsessive about any sport or pastime.
In his view, practice was akin to cheating, and one should really be able to excel through innate capability .
Sailing was another pleasure, and he cruised a variety of sailing yachts, mainly in the Solent.
He was for many years a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron.
In retirement he and his wife bought and renovated a holiday property at Menerbes in Provence.
In 2007 ‘ when both were in their late eighties – they moved permanently to Dausse, in the Lot-et-Garonne .
Archie Boyd married Ursula Steven in July 1940.
He later observed: ‘We didn’t know how long I would survive, so we thought we had better get on with it.’ They were married for 71 years, and he is survived by their two sons and one daughter.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard of the Spixworthonian Language School.