Captain, Royal Flying Corps, Royal Air Force.  Squadrons 3, 9, 23, 44, 56, 61, 152, Military Cross


At age thirteen, Cecil Lewis loved model airplanes - together with a friend that had an attic full of models he was deep into glue, wire, veneer and solder. So in 1915 when he was barely seventeen, he tried to join the RFC, that had just raised the age for joining to eighteen. He was accepted. Learning to fly on a Longhorn, he went solo after one and a half hours dual. Final training was on Avros, BE 2c's and FE's; in March 1916, 22 Squadron was ready to go overseas.

He had fourteen hours to his credit. April 1916 was spent with putting in time, and when he reachted fifty hours, he was ordered to no. 3 Squadron on the Somme. There, he flew a Morane Parasol on patrol, photographing the front between Thiepval and Montauban, thus having a front row seat to view the great battle in June, flying with shells passing above and below his plane and seeing the continuous flash and rumble of hell below. He won the Military Cross. His friend 'intercepted a shell' when Cecil was away on leave. After six months he was very sick and tired of the war, had trouble with his eyes, and was sent home to the Testing Squadron as a rest.

April 1917 saw him back in France with 56 Squadron, flying the SE 5 on offensive patrols. This was the squadron of Albert Ball, and they were off to deal with Richthofen and his Circus. He saw Ball disappear in a cloud, never to be seen again. He was credited with eight victories during May and June of 1917.

Wounded, he was sent home and posted to a Home Defence squadron, where he hunted for Gothas over London. In October 1918 he went back overseas again with 152 Squadron as Flight Commander; in November the War was over. He managed to get a job with Vickers and spent a few monthes doing exhibition flights. When the firm sold planes to China in 1919, he went to Peking as flying instructor. In 1921 the Peking - Shanghai air route was not getting anywhere and he went home.

There, he became one of the founders of the BBC, working on the radio Programme Board from 1922 to 1926. In the thirties he started writing. He rejoined the RAF at the outbreak of the Second World War as flying instructor and ended the war in command of staging posts in Sicily and Greece. After the war he flew a Miles Gemini to Johannesburg, farmed sheep, worked for the UN, for commercial television and the Daily Mail.

In ‘Sagittarius Rising' he wrote that 'Life is more savoured in its after-taste'. He certainly is proof of that, devoting some eleven books at a look back: poetic and philosophical, or candid, open and with humour. 'This prince of pilots had a charmed life in every sense of the word; he is a thinker, a master of words, and a bit of a poet'. (Bernhard Shaw in 1936). Cecil Lewis died 27th of January 1997.

Obituary: Cecil Lewis


T. H. Bridgewater. Wednesday, 29 January 1997

Sagittarius Rising (1936): flying in the Great War; China in 1921.

Pathfinders (1943); Pathfinder crew to raid target in Germany; resemblance to Len Deighton's 'Bomber'

Yesterday's evening (1946)

Farewell to wings (1964)

Turn Right for Corfu (1972)

Never Look Back - an attempt at autobiography (1974)

A Way to Be (1977)

Gemini to Joburg (1984): The True Story of a Flight Over Africa.

Sagittarius Surviving (1991)

All my Yesterdays: an Autobiography (1993)

So Long Ago, So Far Away: A Memory of Old Peking (1998 !!)


small cat.2
© 152(Hyderabad) F Squadron 1939-1967. All Rights Reserved.