“During an air raid on RAF Kenley 18 Aug 1940, Aircraftman 2nd Class Roberts was in charge of a unit of the ground defences and, although under heavy fire, succeeded in destroying one enemy aircraft and causing damage to another. It was one of the hardest days fighting during the Battle of Britain.
Defence of Kenley included Parachute and Cable (PAC) Units with Roberts employed on the PAC unit on the Station’s northern boundary. 3 Dornier bombers headed towards his position and when they came into range he launched a line of 9 rockets. A new anti-aircraft weapon at the time, the Luftwaffe pilots struggled to combat its effectiveness. Roberts actions and leadership accounted for the first “kill” accredited to a PAC unit.
The London Gazette records his award of a Military Medal on 5 November 1940 but he wasn’t awarded it until 5 years later when His Majesty the King presented it at Buckingham Palace on 26 June 1945.
In 1942 his ground defence unit was amalgamated into the newly formed RAF Regiment and Roberts immediately saw action in the Western Desert against the Afrika Corps. He commissioned into the RAF Regiment in 1943 and then served postings in Cyprus and Amman, from where he launched clandestine operations all over northern Syria.
He returned to Britain in 1944, taking over command of the RAF Regiment depot at Belton Park. In 1946, he was sent to the Far East to establish the RAF Regiment (Malaya) force of British and Malaysian troops. This highly successful force, including Roberts’ own 93 Squadron fought valiantly against the communist insurgency of 1948-59, winning numerous awards for gallantry.
From 1953-55 Roberts was an instructor at RAF College Cranwell where he was described as “Fearless, of impeccable appearance and iron-hard constitution”, inspiring the next generation of RAF officers.
He then commanded 20 (Field) Wing RAF Regiment in Aden, giving him command of internal security in Aden, East Africa and Somaliland. Next, he commanded 3 Wing RAF Regiment in Cyprus, heavily involved in the Eoka campaign, playing a key role in the division of the island. He was Mentioned in Dispatches for his efforts.
In 1966 as a Group Captain he was aide-de-camp to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II before taking command of the RAF Regiment depot in Catterick and retiring from service in 1971. He passed away in May of 2001, but is still fondly remembered as a legendary figure within the RAF Regiment, embodying the RAF’s ethos of Respect, Integrity, Service before Self and Excellence.
[Credit: RAF Regiment Heritage Centre]
The Roberts Trophy
Group Captain David Roberts MBE MM had a distinguishedcareer in the RAF Regiment from its inception in 1942. In fact, as ayoung PAC Operator, he was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry during the Battle of Britain when he brought down an enemy bomber at RAF Kenley. As a trainer of officers and airmen (and flight cadets at the RAF College Cranwell), and as a commander in junior and senior ranks, he well understood the importance of good leadership at all levels and he emphasised this by presenting a trophy in 1991for annual award to the junior Regiment officer who had best demonstrated his qualities of leadership under demanding conditionsanywhere in the world. [Source: Through Adversity]