You may have watched ‘Churchill: 100 Days that Saved Britain’, broadcast on ITV on Sunday 25 January, if not click here for the link.
The main interest for us is of course that much of the programme is based on the diaries of Old Pocklingtonian Sir Charles Wilson(1895-1899), later Lord Moran, who had tended Sir Winston as his personal physician for many years, particularly during the Second World War. It was Moran who announced the news on the steps of Churchill’s house in Hyde Park Gate. These diaries were, controversially, published soon after Churchill’s death, as explained by the late David Smith in his Bitesize History.
(Churchill reported the following: in January 1943, when Churchill attended the Casablanca Conference with President Roosevelt during which the policy of unconditional surrender was formulated, Moran accompanied him, as was usual on his overseas journeys. At the end of the Conference, he and Churchill went on to Cairo and Turkey before retracing the route home via the victory parade in Tripoli and a meeting with Eisenhower. When the party was eventually ready to depart for England, the aircraft was found to have developed a fault and the passengers all disembarked – with the exception of Moran who had fallen asleep; no-one noticed and he was locked in all night and not released until next morning.)
The state funeral of Sir Winston was on Saturday 30 January 1965. The procession had representatives of all the services and the many regiments with which he had a connection. Taking pride of place at the head of the procession, just behind the band, was a contingent of serving RAF officers – an Air Commodore and 13 Group Captains – who had all been Battle of Britain pilots. OP Alec Ingle (25-33), second from the right, was one of them.
Alec gained employment in electricity distribution in Yorkshire and Lancashire on leaving school. He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve on its inception in 1937 and was soon flying de Havilland Moths, Blackburn B2’s, Hawker Harts and Audaxes from Brough, Manchester and Tollerton. He was mobilised on 1 September 1939 and flew with 605 Squadron during the Battle of Britain. He downed his first aircraft on 8 September 1940 when he probably destroyed a Dornier Do17 and by the end of the year his score was three; his eventual total was five. He had been shot down three times himself and wounded once. He later served in 74 and 124 Squadrons and Alec was awarded the Air Force Cross for flying a badly burned pilot to hospital at Cosford in hazardous conditions.
In 1943, he was given command of 609 Squadron equipped with Typhoons. It was during this tour at Manston that he was engaged in intercepting enemy raiders, preventing hostile shipping movements in the Dover Straits, and attacking railway movements in northern France and Belgium. Later he had bombs fitted to the Typhoons so that they could be used to attack airfields, marshalling yards and barracks — at night. Despite some successes, he was still not content, so the squadron embarked upon what came to be known as ‘Ingle’s Tours of the Dutch Islands’ using bombs and cannon to attack enemy shipping; coasters, minesweepers, E-boats and R-boats. After many successful missions Alec was caught by intense anti-aircraft fire from a flak ship near Flushing and his aircraft set on fire. But he managed to get his aircraft and the Squadron back to base at Manston. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Manston was at that time one of our busiest airfields; at 03.30 one morning, Alec was surprised to see a Focke Wulf Fw190 landing, but thinking quickly, he chased after it in the squadron car and, not being armed, arrested the pilot, Heinz Ehrhardt, by pointing his finger at him!
In the summer of 1943 Alec was promoted to Wing Commander to assume command of No.124 Wing, which consisted of three large squadrons of Typhoon fighter bombers. The Wing attacked airfields, coastal defences and communications in Northern France. Alec was shot down on 11 September 1943; trapped inside, his Typhoon finally blew up at approximately 300 feet, flinging him out. He managed to open his parachute just before hitting the ground, but the explosion burned his face and legs. When he had recovered, he was taken to Stalag Luft 3 at Sagan. He joined about 1,000 prisoners in North Camp where the tunneling operations were in progress which led to ‘The Great Escape’. Just six weeks before the tunnel broke successfully from North Camp, sadly resulting in some 50 prisoners being executed by the Gestapo, Alec was moved to a subsidiary camp at Belaria.
After repatriation leave, and in the years that followed, Alec Ingle commanded RAF Stations at West Malling, Tangmere, Chivenor, Pembrey, and Eindhoven. He was also a member of the directing staff of the Officers Advanced Training School and the RN Staff College before staff appointments in the Far East and London. He retired in 1966.
After the war Alec became a keen sailor, and he owned a variety of sailing yachts, including one of the Dunkirk Little Ships, the motor launch Moiena, which had rescued 1500 soldiers. He made a business venture out of this interest on retirement, unfortunately with mixed results, although he was Chairman of the Littlehampton Harbour Board for many years. He later developed an interest in local politics for the conservatives and became a District Councillor, and party chairman.
I am aware of three other OPs amongst the Few: Squadron Leader Stephen ‘Dan’ Daniel (31-34) DSO DFC (and Bar) – and an American DFC in Korea – 16.5 kills; Sergeant Pilot Henry Bolton (33-35) was killed on 31 August 1940 near Warlingham in Surrey (shot down within 13 days of becoming operational); and, Sergeant Ronnie Hamlyn (28-30) who became an ‘ace-in a day’ by shooting down 5 enemy aircraft on 24 August 1940 and was awarded the DFM. He finished the war with 11 victories, an AFC (gazetted on the same day as Ingle’s) and retired as a Wing Commander.
 Much of this article has been drawn from the Squadron archives.