" SOUND BARRIER "
Neville Frederick Duke D.S.O., O.B.E., D.F.C. & Two Bars, A.F.C., F.R.Ae.S. ( January 11th, 1922 - April 7th, 2007 ) was born in Tonbridge ( Kent, England ). He was educated at the Convent of St. Mary and The Judd School in Tonbridge.
Neville F. Duke started working as an auctioneer and estate agent before attempting to join the Fleet Air Arm ( F.A.A. ) on his 18th birthday. He was rejected and joined the Royal Air Force ( R.A.F. ) instead as a Cadet in June 1940. He underwent pilot training and was commissioned at No. 58 Operational Training Unit ( O.T.U., Grangemouth, Falkirk, Scotland ) in February 1941, before being posted to No. 92 " East India " Squadron at Biggin Hill ( Greater London, England ) in April, flying Supermarine Spitfire Mk V's.
Operating over occupied Europe, Neville F. Duke's obvious talents as a fighter pilot meant he often flew as Wingman to Biggin Hill's Wing Leader, the famous South African Ace Wing Commander Adolph G. " Sailor " Malan D.S.O. & Bar, D.F.C. & Bar ( 1910 - 1963 ). When the unit was withdrawn for a rest in October 1941, Neville F. Duke was posted to North Africa to fly with No. 112 Squadron. Shot down twice ( November 30th and December 5th, 1941 ), he was wounded in the leg the second time, but managed to crash - land near Tobruk ( Lybia ) and was sent back to Cairo ( Egypt ) in a Blenheim for a rest. He then spent six months instructing at the Fighter School in the Canal Zone ( Suez, Egypt ).
In November 1942, Neville F. Duke rejoined No. 92 Squadron, which has been transferred to North Africa, and became one of the Flight Commanders ( holding the rank of Flight Lieutenant ) in February 1943. Promoted to Squadron Leader, Neville F. Duke was posted to No. 73 Operational Training Unit at Abu Sueir ( Egypt ) as Chief Flying Instructor before returning to operations in March 1944, as Commanding Officer ( C.O. ) of No. 145 Squadron in Italy.
On June 7th, S/Ldr Neville F. Duke was shot down by the " Flak " and baled out into Lake Bracciano ( northwest of Rome ), almost drowning when unable to release his parachute harness. He sheltered with Italian partisans until U.S. troops arrived. S/Ldr Neville F. Duke scored his final kills on September 7th, 1944, becoming the Mediterranean Theatre's top Allied fighter Ace at the age of 22. At the end of the war, he has completed three tours of operations, and claimed 27 aerial victories and 2 shared, 1 probable, 6 damaged and 2 shared destroyed on the ground.
Neville F. Duke returned to the United Kingdom and took up a position as test pilot for Hawker in January 1945. He attended No. 4 Course at the Empire Test Pilots' School at Cranfield ( Bedfordshire, England ) in 1946, and then joined the R.A.F.'s High Speed Flight Unit. From 1947 to 1948, he flew research flights at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down ( Wiltshire, England ).
Neville F. Duke resigned from the R.A.F. in August 1948, joining the Royal Auxiliary Air Force ( R.Aux.A.F. ) and becoming C.O. of No. 615 " County of Surrey " Squadron ( 1950 - 1951 ). He joined Hawker as an Assistant Chief Test Pilot in 1948, and became Hawker's Chief Test Pilot in 1951. On September 7th, 1953, He set a new world air speed record of 727.63 mph ( 1,171.01 km / h ), flying Hawker Hunter WB188. After two forced landing ( August 1955 and May 1956 ), which caused serious spinal injuries, he was forced to resign in October 1956.
Neville F. Duke took up freelance aviation consultancy work until 1960, when he formed Duke Aviation Limited ( sold in 1982 ). On April 7th, 2007, Neville F. Duke and his wife were flying their private aircraft when he became ill. He landed safely at Popham Airfield ( Hampshire, England ), but collapsed as he left the aircraft. Suffering from an aneurysm, he died later that same evening after an operation at St. Peter's Hospital ( Chertsey, Surrey, England ), at the age of 85.
( source : Wikipedia )