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Group Captain J O Dalley OBE DFM Légion d’honneur


1920-2017 [Aged 96 years]

John Dalley, known as ‘Joe’ was born on 7 April 1920 at Silwood Park, a private residence—the Manor House of Sunninghill. His Father was the Head Gardner and Mother the Housekeeper. He was educated at the village school in Sunningdale; an all-round sportsman. He excelled at English and Mathematics, and at the age of 16 won a scholarship to Oxford. However, his parents being considered ill-placed to support him through university, he was pointed in the direction of the Civil Service. At the age of 17 he entered the Post Office and was reported in the London Gazette (6239) of 8 October 1937 to have qualified as a Mail Sorting Clerk and Telegraphist. He did well and by 1939 was appointed Assistant Post Master at Maidenhead, where he met his future wife, Marjorie, who was working locally as a Master Printer in the Newspaper print works.

On the outbreak of WW2, he volunteered to join up but was refused because he was in a protected employment “essential to the war effort”! However, by late 1940 he was able to join as a trainee pilot. Not at university he could not be commissioned, and was sent for flying training in the rank of aircraftsman. He was went to Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan, Canada; qualified as a Fighter pilot, gaining his wings after 8 hours and being promoted to Sgt. He was posted to 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron RAF at Hornchurch, Essex in June 1941 as a Spitfire pilot. 

In February 1942, the Air Ministry trawled for combat experienced pilots to undertake Photographic Reconnaissance (PR) training at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire. Joe was snapped up and posted to 1 PRU enroute to the Mediterranean. In May 1942, flying a new Spitfire Mk IV PR, promoted to Flt Sgt, he took off for Malta, flying at high altitude over neutral Spain and into Gibraltar. He refuelled and flew to Luqa, with an accompanying signal for the AOC that he join 69 Squadron PR Flight.

Joe joined 69 Squadron PR Flight and began 8 months of intensive photographic duties. He flew almost every day, often for sorties of several hours, establishing the air ORBAT within 450 miles of Malta. The secondary task was maintaining the Italian Naval ORBAT in the same area. Thirdly he searched for resupply convoys and escorts supporting the Africa Korps under Rommel, eastwards to Greece and westwards to Sicily, northwards to Bari, Messina, Naples, Palermo and Taranto, Finally, providing intelligence to defend Allied resupply convoys to Malta. During these months he lost one third of his bodyweight. The bombing of Malta was at its most intense and times were bleak for everyone, especially the local population. He returned to the UK in late December, having earned his DFM and a Commission. 

He was medically downgraded, having contracted ‘the bends’ in Malta, and he took over a PR training role. Once fully fit, and with the intervention of the AOCinC, he was posted to 1 Squadron RAF in the South of England, to continue his war over Europe, including D Day, the ‘Battle of the Bulge’, Op MARKET GARDEN and on into Belgium and Germany. He was awarded his Légion d’honneur for his services to France from D Day onwards. On cessation of the War he was granted a permanent Commission in the General Duties Branch. He qualified as a jet pilot and went on to obtain his Master Pilots authorisation, becoming a future test pilot with Vickers at Weybridge
By 1949 he was seconded to the RCAF, serving on Prince Edward Island, and then attending the Canadian Staff College in Toronto, before joining a Squadron at St Hubert, Quebec. He returned to the UK in 1953 and was posted to RAF Coltishall to command 141 Night Fighter Squadron, flying Venoms. His career followed a glittering path, with command of the Guided Weapons Trials Unit at RAF Valley, from which he was appointed an OBE. Postings to NATO HQ, in Paris at the time, attendance at JSSC Latimer, becoming CO of RAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire in 1964 followed. Further tours included MOD, RAF Bentley Priory, Shape and LIVE OAK. Throughout his career he continued flying on a weekly basis.

Joe married Marjorie at St Michael’s and All Angels Church in Sunninghill in 1945; together they had 27 changes of residence, living latterly in Maidenhead and finally Wokingham. He had two sons, Michael and Timothy. There are five grandchildren, Christal, Sarah, Julian, James and Kimberley. There are 7 great grandchildren.

Joe completed a full career in the RAF, leaving in 1975 to rejoin the Civil Service. On retirement he and Marjorie moved to Wokingham, where his wife predeceased in 2013.  He passed away on 3 February 2017. He led a full life - a challenging life; and one of fond memories of Malta through which he maintained a strong bond via the George Cross Island Association.

His Passing will be marked with a short service at Easthampstead Crematorium, [RG40 3DW] on Monday, 6 March 2017. No flowers, Donations to GCIA through the Chairman. 

Per ardua ad Astra