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Squadron Leader George Glenn DFC and Bar

Squadron Leader George Glenn DFC and Bar

Born: October 19th 1920 in Paignton, Devon. Died: May 30th 2011 Age 90.


Made a daring solo attack on the German battlecruiser Gneisenau, which earned him an immediate DFC
before completing another 51 operations with the RAF’s Pathfinder Force, for which he was awarded a second DFC.

Glenn was coming to the end of his tour with No. 144 Squadron, flying the outdated twin-engined Hampden bomber, when, at dawn on Christmas Eve 1941, the squadron was asked for three aircraft to attack the Gneisenau, berthed at Brest.

The three crews were to make a daylight attack, and Glenn and his crew were one of those selected by the tossing of a coin.

The aircraft were due to rendezvous at Start Point, Devon, but Glenn arrived five minutes late and, after waiting for 20 minutes, decided to press on, thinking he was behind the other two.

He was not aware that his aircraft’s radio was unserviceable, so he and his crew failed to receive the general recall and they pressed on alone.

Glenn flew at 600ft across the English Channel in poor weather. As he approached the target and descended through a patch of cloud, the starboard wing of his bomber hit the cable of a tethered balloon; the aircraft swerved violently and Glenn only just managed to retain control before heading for the target to drop his 2,000lb armour-piercing bomb. The anti-aircraft fire was extremely fierce and accurate, and the tailplane of his Hampden was badly damaged, making the aircraft almost uncontrollable.

Glenn managed to get back to England, making an emergency landing on an airfield in Cornwall.

The crew were collected by another aircraft and returned to their airfield, where the station commander insisted that they attend the Christmas party. A few days later he and his navigator were awarded DFCs .

The son of Lieutenant-Colonel H.W. Glenn, a veteran of the Boer and First World Wars. He left Newton College when he was 16 to become an apprentice with the Ellerman Hall shipping line and spent the next three years travelling the world.

He volunteered for service in the R.A.F. in 1939 and trained as a pilot before joining No. 144 Squadron.

During the summer of 1941 he flew more than 20 bombing operations against targets in Germany and also completed a number of sorties dropping mines in the Kattegat and off the Frisian Islands.

After a rest period as a flying instructor, Glenn returned to operations in the Mosquitos of No 139 Squadron as part of the Pathfinder Force. He flew more than 50 bombing operations to the most heavily defended targets in Germany, including 21 to Berlin. On more than one occasion he flew his aircraft back to England from deep over enemy territory when one engine had failed due to enemy fire.

Glenn remained in the R.A.F. postwar and flew Mosquito photographic reconnaissance aircraft with No. 13 Squadron in Egypt’s Canal Zone.

He spent 12 years instructing student pilots and was the adjutant of Edinburgh University Air Squadron.

He served as the senior administration officer at the R.A.F.‘s Initial Officer Training Wing for his last two years of service.

Glenn was a passionate sailor and, after his retirement from the R.A.F. in October 1963, all his activities revolved around this interest.

He first established Westcoaster Yacht Charters on the River Dart, but after four years was offered the job of assistant harbour master for the upper reaches of the tidal River Dart. Subsequently he became harbour master.

When the Dartmouth Harbour Commission amalgamated with the River Dart Navigation Commission, Glenn was offered the job of chief administrator, which involved a full-time office job at Dartmouth.

This he endured for a couple of years until he resigned to start the Wyvern Sailing School with a six-ton yacht he had inherited, and three dinghies.

He owned a number of yachts, including the 28ft gaff ketch Girl Eva and (his favourite) the nine-ton Gauntlet class 32ft Miranda of Lleyn.

He was a member of the Royal Cruising Club for more than 10 years and, in later years, co-founded the Blandford Mariners Club. He also enjoyed model yacht building.

Tired of the English weather, in 1983 he sailed his 24ft Felicity Al to Paphos in Cyprus, where he was joined by his wife.

They spent three happy years on the island before, in 1986, moving to the Vendie region of France, where they renovated an old farmhouse.
His wife died six years later and Glenn returned with his dogs to live in Dorset, where he was closer to his son, David Glenn, the editor of Yachting World.

He married, in 1948, Elaine Smith, who was then serving with the Princess Mary’s R.A.F. Nursing Service, and is survived by their son and 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.

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 • Last Modified: 01 January 2014, 00:00