12 December 1917 – 21 September 1995
Alan Deere is perhaps New Zealand’s most renowned Fighter Ace and was the second highest scoring Kiwi Ace in World War Two. His many brushes with death are recounted in his autobiography ‘Nine Lives‘…
Gallery of screenshots from Daniel Rarity’s video tribute to Alan C Deere
…For example, having pursued a Messerschmidt Me 109 over the channel and shot it down near Calais, he was in turn attacked by five German fighters, and incident which he described:
Bullets seemed to come from everywhere and pieces flew off my aircraft. Never did it take so long to cross the Channel. Then my Spitfire burst into flames, so I undid my straps and eased the stick back to gain height before bailing out. Turned my machine on its back and pushed the stick hard forward. I shot out a few feet but somehow became caught up. Although I twisted and turned I could not free myself. The nose of my aircraft had now dropped and was pointing at the ground which was rushing up at an alarming rate. Then suddenly I was blown along the side of the fuselage and was clear. A hurried snatch at the rip cord and, with a jolt, the parachute opened.
His reputation as an outstanding Fighter Pilot grew alongside his fellow Kiwis, the top New Zealand ace of World War Two, Colin Gray, and John Gibson (Signatory #197). He was also once scrambled after a lone German aircraft was spotted near Scotland – he didn’t find it, but it was later identified as the plane Rudolph Hess, Hitler’s Deputy, flew to Scotland.
“In January 1942 Deere embarked on a short tour of the United States to teach fighter tactics to American pilots. He was back in action three months later, taking command of a Canadian spitfire squadron before being posted to staff duties at the headquarters of No. 13 Group. In February 1943 he was appointed Wing Leader at the Royal Air Force Station at Biggin Hill. He led 121 sorties over the next six months and earned the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). He went on to command the Free French fighter wing through D-Day and the liberation of France before returning to staff duty in England.
Deere finished the war as New Zealand’s second-highest-scoring air ace – behind Colin Gray – with 22 confirmed victories, 10 probable victories and 18 damaged. He was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in May 1945 and went on have a prestigious post-war career, including service as Aide-de-camp to Queen Elizabeth II in 1962… after his death his ashes, fittingly, were scattered over the Thames from a Spitfire.” (New Zealand History)
“Alan Christopher Deere was born in Auckland, New Zealand on 12th December 1917 and educated at St. Carries School, Wanganui. He had six brothers, five of whom served in and survived the war, two were taken prisoner.
Deere worked briefly as a shepherd and then as a clerk with Treadwell, Gordon, Treadwell & Haggitt, solicitors at Wanganui. But after a joyride he took to flying.
In April 1937 he applied for a short service commission in the RAF and he sailed for the UK on 23rd September in the RMS Rangitane.
On 28th October 1937 he began his training at 13 E&RFTS White Waltham, moved to 6 FTS Netheravon in late January 1938, completed his training and joined 54 Squadron at Hornchurch on 20th August 1938.
The squadron began to receive Spitfires in March 1939 and on a flight in May Deere was overcome by anoxia and lost consciousness. His aircraft went into a dive and he came to just in time to pull out. He suffered a burst eardrum and was off flying for three months.
On 23rd May 1940 Deere and P/O JL Allen escorted F/Lt. JA Leathart, who flew a Master to Calais-Marck airfield to pick up the CO of 74 Squadron, S/Ldr. FL White, who had made a forced-landing there. The rescue was effected and Deere shot down two Me109’s and damaged another. Later the same day he destroyed a third.
On 24th May Deere shot down a Me110 and on the 26th two more. On this day he was appointed ‘A’ Flight Commander and promoted to Acting Flight Lieutenant.
Deere was leading 54 on a dawn patrol on the 28th, as part of a Wing of three squadrons. With poor visibility, he lost visual contact with the other two Hornchurch squadrons. The Spitfires of 54 crossed the Belgian coast alone. Sighting a Do17, Deere gave chase with three members of his flight. He damaged the bomber but was hit by return fire and, with his glycol tank holed and producing smoke, he decided to make a forced-landing on a beach. He was knocked unconcsious as the Spitfire ploughed through the sand.
After coming to, he got out of the now-burning aircraft and was taken by a soldier to Oost-Dunkerke, where he had his head injury dressed. Deere decided to make for Dunkirk, commandeered a bicycle and was eventually picked up by British soldiers, heading for Dunkirk in a lorry. They abandoned it on the outskirts of the town because of congestion on the road.
Deere got on a boat back to Dover, caught a train to London, went by Underground to Elm Park station and arrived back at Hornchurch some nineteen hours after he had taken off. He was carrying his parachute.
He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 12th June 1940), which was presented to him by the King in a ceremony at Hornchurch on the 27th.
Deere shared in the unconfirmed destruction of a Ju88 on 17th June. He destroyed a Me109 on 9th July and after colliding with another made a crash-landing in a cornfield, escaping with minor injuries.
On 24th July he probably destroyed a Me109, on 12th August he destroyed two Me109’s and a Me110, on the 15th he destroyed two Me109’s, probably a third and damaged another but had to bale out at a very low level from Spitfire R6981 after being chased back across the Channel by two German fighters.
He escaped with a slight fracture of the wrist and after an overnight stay at the Queen Victoria Cottage Hospital, East Grinstead, he returned to Hornchurch.
Deere probably destroyed a Me109 and was then shot down by a Spitfire on 28th August and baled out of Spitfire R6832. On the 30th he probably shot down a Do17. The next day he was the pilot of one of three Spitfires caught in a bombing attack as they were taking off from Hornchurch. Deere’s aircraft was thrown on to its back and he was left suspended in his harness. He was released by one of the other two pilots involved, P/O EF Edsall, who despite leg injuries crawled across and released Deere, who then took his rescuer to Station Sick Quarters.
On 3rd September Deere probably destroyed a Me110. He was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 6th September 1940). On 8th January 1941 he was posted to SHQ Catterick and was made Operations Room Controller there.
His portrait was made by Orde in February (below). Deere joined 602 Squadron at Ayr on 7th May as a Flight Commander.
At the beginning of 1941 he had a spell as operations room controller at Catterick before joining 602 Squadron as a flight commander at Ayr in May.
Shortly after arriving Deere was one of those scrambled to investigate an unidentified aircraft flying west towards Glasgow. The pilot baled out and it crashed before it could be intercepted. It turned out to be the Me110 flown by Rudolf Hess.
On 5th June he crash-landed on the clifftop at the Heads of Ayr after his engine seized.
On 1st August 1941 he took command of 602 and on the same day he destroyed a Me109 over Gravelines. He was posted away in January 1942 and sent to America to lecture on fighter tactics.
Deere returned to operations on 1st May, taking command of 403 (RCAF) Squadron at North Weald. In August he was posted to HQ 13 Group on staff duties. He went for a course at RAF Staff College and returned to 13 Group.
In February 1943, desperate to return to operations, Deere went as a supernumerary to 611 Squadron at Biggin Hill. Whilst there he destroyed a Fw190. He was given command of the Kenley Wing but the posting was changed and he went as Wing leader to Biggin Hill.
Deere was awarded the DSO (gazetted 15th July 1943). He led the Wing until 15th September 1943, when he became ill and was admitted to hospital. He then had 22 confirmed victories, 10 probables and a further 18 enemy aircraft damaged.
Deere went to CGS Sutton Bridge to command the Fighter Wing. In March 1944 he got a staff job at 11 Group and in early May he took command of 145 (French) Airfield, 2nd TAF at Merston. He led the Wing over the invasion bridgehead early on the morning of D-Day. The Wing moved to the Continent later in June and Deere was posted soon afterwards to HQ 84 Group Control Centre, as Wing Commander Plans.
In July 1945 he was appointed Station Commander at Biggin Hill. He was granted a permanent commission in August and posted to command the Polish Mustang Wing at Andrews Field, Essex. When the Wing was disbanded in October 1945, he became Station Commander at Duxford.
Deere held a series of appointments and commands in the post-war RAF including assistant commandant at the RAF Staff College, Cranwell, in 1963. The next year he commanded the East Anglian Sector before joining Technical Training Command.
He retired on 12th December 1967 as an Air Commodore.
He received the DFC (US), the C de G (Fr), was made an OBE (gazetted 1st June 1945) and was ADC to the Queen in 1962.
In 1959 Deere’s book of his wartime experiences ‘Nine Lives’ was published in London.
Passing up a better-paid job with the American aircraft company Fairchild, Deere spent the next 10 years as the RAF civilian director of sport.” (Courtesy of the excellent Battle of Britain London Monument’s “Airmen’s Storie”s)
“The renowned autobiography of New Zealand’s most famous RAF pilot who saw action from the Munich Crisis to the invasion of France in 1944. Al Deere experienced the drama of the early days of the Battle of Britain while serving with Spitfire squadrons based at Hornchurch and Manston, and his compelling story tells of the successes and frustrations of those critical weeks. Deere’s nine lives are the accounts of his fantastic luck in escaping from seemingly impossible situations. During the Battle of Britain he parachuted from stricken aircraft on three occasions and once was blown up by a bomb while taking off from Hornchurch during an attack on the airfield. In March 1943 Deere was appointed Wing Commander of the famous Biggin Hill Wing and by the end of the war, his distinguished ‘score’ was destroyed twenty-two, probables ten and damaged eighteen.”
|Colin Falkland Gray||New Zealand||Royal Air Force||27½||Top New Zealand ace|
|Alan Christopher Deere||New Zealand||Royal Air Force||22|
|William V. Crawford-Crompton||New Zealand||Royal Air Force||21½|
|Raymond Brown Hesselyn||New Zealand||Royal New Zealand Air Force||21½|
|Evan Mackie||New Zealand||Royal New Zealand Air Force||20||+3 shared|
|Cobber Kain||New Zealand||Royal Air Force||17||First RAF fighter ace of WWII|
|Brian Carbury||New Zealand||Royal Air Force||15½||Ace in a day|
|Johnnie Checketts||New Zealand||Royal New Zealand Air Force||14½|
|Geoff Fisken||New Zealand||Royal New Zealand Air Force||11|
|Alan Peart||New Zealand||Royal Air Force||6.33|
Alan Deere & Johnnie Checketts (right), two renowned World War Two Fighter Aces from New Zealand, on ‘This Is Your Life’
REEL 1 Background in Auckland, New Zealand, 1917-1937: family; education. Aspects of period as pilot with 54 Sqdn, No 11 Group, Fighter Command, RAF in GB, 1939-1940: enlistment in RAF, 1937; reaction to declaration of Second World War at RAF Hornchurch, 3/9/1939; flying the Supermarine Spitfire; the Battle of Barking Creek, 6/9/1939. Aspects of operations as pilot with 54 Sqdn, No 11 Group, Fighter Command, RAF during Dunkirk Evacuation, 1940: shooting down Messerschmitt Me 109; his shooting down by Dornier Do 17 over Dunkirk, 28/5/1940; evacuation from Dunkirk aboard HMS Montrose; attitude of army troops towards RAF; view of Dunkirk from the air; character of squadron; requipping at RAF Catterick after actions over France.
REEL 2 Continues: Recollections of operations as pilot with 54 Sqdn, Nos 11 and 13 Groups, Fighter Command, RAF during Battle of Britain, 1940: convoy patrols; German tactics and increasing intensity of air raids; importance of preservation of RAF reserve and radar; German Air Force raid on RAF Hornchurch, 31/7/1940; shortage of and inexperienced pilots; tactics employed by squadron; sight of large German Air Force formations; estimates of Messerschmitt Me 110 and Messerschmitt Me 109; personal morale; his collision with Messerschmitt Me 109, 9/7/1940; shooting down of German Red Cross seaplane; treatment for burns at Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead and opinion of Archibald McIndoe, 28/7/1940; importance of weather; frequency and duration of patrols; fatigue during battle; lack of sense of battle being historic.
REEL 3 Continues: degree of fairness in tactics employed; contact with shot down German pilot; closeness of outcome of battle; opinion of New Zealanders loyalty to GB. Aspects of operations with No 11 Group, Fighter Command and 2nd Tactical Air Force, RAF in GB, 1941-1944: offensive operations with 602 Sqdn, RAF over France, 1941; changes to Supermarine Spitfire during Second World War; operating against Focke Wulf Fw 190; operating over D-Day beaches with 2nd Tactical Air Force, 6/6/1944; attitude towards wartime service with RAF.
In August 2020, A British youngster’s about to retrace the escape route of New Zealand’s most famous World War II pilot.
Alan Deere’s Spitfire was shot down during the Battle of France in 1940.
Now, six-year-old Jacob Newson will walk the 25km journey from the crash site in Belgium to the beach at Dunkirk to raise money for a Royal Air Force charity.