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Ronald Harry Albert (Ron) Pinn Master Pilot AFM 1587199

Born: Lamerton, Devon January 24th 1923. Died: April 25th 1997

Ronald Harry Albert (Ron) Pinn grew up in Devon wanting to become a doctor. As for many of his generation, his plans changed when war broke out.

He joined the Royal Air Force in 1942. While at 2 Initial Training Wing, Cambridge he was selected to be an extra in the film 'Journey Together', which was a documentary about aircrew training and he can be seen in two classroom scenes. In later life, with tongue-in-cheek, he would refer to Richard Attenborough (who starred in the film) as 'my mate Dickie'. It also explains why he always cheered for Cambridge in the boat race.

Shortly before Christmas he had his first flight experience in a Tiger Moth at 3 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) Shellingford and he went solo 4 weeks later, 3 days before his 20th birthday.

In early 1943 he travelled on the RMS Mauritania to Canada where he trained on Tiger Moths at 32 EFTS Bowden and then Harvards at 37 EFTS Calgary.

Back in England, and after some months flying the Miles Master II, he joined 667 Squadron at Gosport to fly the Vultee Vengeance. With other pilots from the squadron he stood out on the airfield awaiting the delivery of the first 6 planes, which were very large American single engined aircraft designed originally as a dive bomber. All were amazed when a petite female pilot of the Air Transport Auxiliary climbed out of each Vengeance.

In December 1944 Ron married Dorothy Mary Harding (1923-1977), who was also born in Devon. During the war Dorothy served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service on anti-aircraft defences. Their wedding photo shows both Ron and his father Harry Albert Taylor Pinn in RAF uniform. Harry was of the generation that served in both world wars. He served in the army in the first and the RAF in the second. During his RAF service he was at some time based at RAF Cardington (Barrage Balloons).

Ron and Dorothy’s children are Christopher and Elizabeth.

In July 1945 as the pilot of one of three Miles Martinets, he flew to Gardermoen, Norway which had been a Luftwaffe base during the war (which had ended in Europe only 2 months earlier). The assignment was to link up with the Norwegian Air Force. Ron said this was completely daft as the whole of the Norwegian Air Force was in England and the only people at Gardermoen were hundreds of Germans. Both sides were glad the war was over, so there were no issues. The Germans even challenged the British pilots to races forwards and backwards through pylons on the airfield using a German motorbike and sidecar which had a reverse gear. About a week later army personnel arrived and set about immobilising the many Luftwaffe aircraft by blowing off the engines with explosives. He remained at Gardermoen as part of 128 Wing until the end of 1945, returning to England until he left the RAF in 1946.

Martinet MS930 of 128 Wing Gardermoen 1945

Missing flying and the RAF life, he flew Tiger Moths from 1949 in the Volunteer Reserves at 10 Reserve Flying School, Exeter. His last log book entry on January 19th 1951 for 10 RFS just mentions 'Low Flying'. In fact the tail-skid of the Tiger Moth caught the telephone wires alongside the local railway line and the Tiger Moth pancaked to the ground. The incident was completely out of character for Ron and fortunately his pride was the only thing that was injured.

Tiger Moth EM923 of 10 RFS Exeter 1951

One month later he was back in the RAF and, after conversion to the Wellington Mk 10, he was stationed at 1 Air Navigation School, RAF Hullavington, Wiltshire. His log book records many navigational exercises while at Hullavington including circuitous flights around the UK as well as to France, Germany, Norway and Malta.

The film 'The Red Beret' was a film about paratroopers and starred Alan Ladd with some scenes filmed at RAF Hullavington. The short take off sequence of the silver 1ANS Wellington was flown for the film by Ron.

Wellington of 1 ANS Hullavington ca. 1951

He flew the RAF Museum’s Wellington MF628 a few times during 1951 including bombing at Chesil Bank where the Dambusters bouncing bomb had been tested a decade previously. He was reunited with MF628 in a visit to the museum in the mid 80’s. He sat in the pilot’s seat, closed his eyes and put his hands unfailingly on every single lever and switch and said what function it had. He said that the electrical system on the Wellington was so unreliable, they would practice with their eyes closed in the hangar so they could find the right switches and levers in the dark.

Reunited with Wellington MF628 at the RAF Museum mid 1980’s

In 1953 the Wellington was replaced by the Varsity which continued with the navigational exercises.

The end of 1954 he was chosen to train as a helicopter pilot. He was sent to the Westland School of Helicopter Training at Yeovil where he flew civilian registered Sikorsky S-51’s. In March 1955 he flew out to 155 Squadron at RAF Kuala Lumpur to fly the S-55 Westland Whirlwind during the Malayan Emergency. Dorothy and Christopher joined him after 5 days of long flights in a Hermes from the UK. He met them at RAF Changi, Singapore and, to the consternation of his family, had a sten gun with him on the train journey from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur 'in case the train was attacked'. He mentioned that a smaller train would proceed the main train, so that if the line was booby trapped, it would be blown up rather than the main train. This did little to provide any reassurance.

Their time in Malaya was cut short due to Dorothy becoming very ill. The family returned to England in an RAF Hastings with Dorothy on a stretcher in the back. Ron then joined 22 Squadron at RAF Felixstowe flying the piston engined S-55 Whirlwind on Search And Rescue duties. As well as looking for people blown out to sea on air mattresses, upturned yachts and the like, there was much training including liaising with lifeboats of the RNLI and RAF launches from the Marine Craft Unit which was also based at Felixstowe.

On a foul winter’s night in February 1956, Ron and his crew rescued 8 sailors from the tug Rumania, for which he was awarded the Air Force Medal. The full story was documented in the book 'Search and Rescue' by Robert Rodrigo. Ron was described simply as a 'hefty Devonian'. That he was.

Whirlwind XJ727 Tug Rumania Crew Rescue RAF Felixstowe 1956

Buckingham Palace with Dorothy, Christopher and Elizabeth – AFM award

In early 1960 the family moved to Bomber Command Bombing School at RAF Lindholme, Yorks. Ron flew the Varsity, which was set up as a bomber trainer and could drop 24 small bombs. Lindholme was also home to the Avro Lincoln and Hastings TMk5.

In 1962 the next posting was 232 Operational Conversion Unit at RAF Gaydon, Warwickshire. He did a lot of flying over the next two years, but unusually in just one aircraft – Avro Anson TX155. Gaydon was a V-Bomber base at that time with Victors and Valiants.

In 1965 he converted to the Gnome turbine powered Whirlwind Mk 10. He became an instructor at the Central Flying School, RAF Tern Hill, Shropshire amassing a vast number of flights until he retired from the RAF in July 1968.

Central Flying School Tern Hill ca.1968 Whirlwind XJ727 again - completely refurbished!

Record of Service

Ron and the family moved to Witley, Surrey. Dorothy passed away on October 6th 1977 and Ron on April 25th 1997.

Compiled by his son Christopher Ronald Pinn November 2019.

Note, other relatives lost during service:

Fg Off. Geoffrey Philip Pinn 424212 RAAF. His 466 Sqn, RAAF Halifax III LV919 HD:O was shot down by Oblt. Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer over Hoogstraten, Belgium on the night of the 12th/13th May 1944. He and his crew were KiA;

Above: Fg Off. Geoffrey Philip Pinn from his service record and grave marker courtesy of Christopher Ronald Pinn

Sgt. Edward William George Pinn who died in Avro Shackleton I VP286 off the coast of Scotland on 8th October 1952. All 14 crew and passengers lost their lives off Tarbat Ness. No cause was established. (236 Operational Conversion Unit);

Sgt. Louis John Pinn who died in Avro Lincoln SX976 (operations against the Mau Mau in Kenya) on 14th August 1954. Piloted by Flt Lt Crockford they commenced bombing from 900 ft. It appears that the bombs had been inadvertently set to 'instantaneous' with the bombs exploding in the air. Shrapnel entered the fuselage and damaged the throttle controls and severely injured the flight engineer. The pilot nursed the Lincoln back to Nairobi at low level and on just the two port engines. The 25 year old Flight Engineer died shortly after landing.

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