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Royal Air Force Beach Units

Honours and Awards

O.B.E.s, M.B.E.s, several Croix de Guerre and quite a few Mentions in Dispatches feature amongst the awards made to members of the R.A.F. Beach Units. A full list of honours and awards has not been completed but some of the most notable are featured below.

 

John Nicholas Dobbin M.C.

John Dobbin MC

Air Ministry, 30th November, 1943.

The KlNG has been graciously pleased to approve the following award:-

Military Cross.

Acting Flight Lieutenant John Nicholas DOBBIN (67733),
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Acting as an assistant military landing officer, Flight Lieutenant Dobbin landed with assault troops on one of the beaches in Italy. The beach was under heavy fire from enemy guns and mortars. Realising the urgency of establishing the beach, Flight Lieutenant Dobbin started the organisation in a most prompt and praiseworthy manner and it was due to his efforts that immediately the first vehicles arrived, they were landed and despatched to the assembly area. Later, though wounded by cannon fire from an enemy aircraft, this officer refused to leave his duties. Throughout the whole operation he displayed fine courage and leadership.

See London Gazette Issue 36267 at www.thegazette.co.uk

John Nicholas Dobbin was originally commissioned in the R.A.F.’s Balloon Branch. He transferred to the Administrative and Special Duties Branch as a Flying Officer on 15th February 1943. As an Acting Flight Lieutenant he won his M.C. at Salerno in September 1943 with the R.A.F. Component of No. 35 Beach Brick and he returned to the U.K. from the Mediterranean in December 1943.

He was an officer of No. 4 R.A.F. Beach Unit when it was formed in January 1944 and then, in March 1944, he was posted to No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit. On joining No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit, he was appointed officer commanding No. 101 Beach Section and was promoted to the rank of Acting Squadron Leader. For his leadership of this unit (renamed No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight) in the invasion of Normandy it was announced, on 1st January 1945, that he had been Mentioned in Despatches.

Alan Melville, who was attached to No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron and landed on D-Day in Normandy, wrote this about Squadron Leader Dobbin:

    “Dobby was an amazing man. He had earned an M.C. at Salerno, and was very much au fait with mornings such as this - without becoming an invasion bore about it. He brimmed over with energy, and he more or less ran our sector of the beach in the first few days. Somehow or other he always contrived to look immaculate when the rest of us were plastered in inches of filth over our clothes and bodies. He carried a stick always, and stampeded over the beach nosing out any signs of inefficiency or delay in getting stuff unloaded or sent inland. Actually, such matters were none of his business at all, as no R.A.F. stores had yet arrived on our sector, but in spite of that Dobby tore around for sixteen hours a day and raised general Cain.”(1)

(1) “First Tide”, by Alan Melville, Skeffington & Son, 1945, p30-31

Rowland David George D.S.O. O.B.E.

 

Air Ministry, 26th May, 1944.

The KlNG has been graciously pleased to approve the following award:-

Distinguished Service Order.

Acting Wing Commander Rowland David George, O.B.E. (75777), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Wing Commander George, the senior movements staff officer, was responsible for the smooth and efficient working of the supply system from the beaches to the airfields during the assault landings at Salerno. He landed with the first assault troops on the beaches in the early morning of 10th September 1943. Thereafter he was under fire, both on the beaches and whilst travelling between the various supply dumps and airfields, until the enemy had been forced to retreat sufficiently to allow the airfields to be occupied by units of the Tactical Air Force. Wing Commander George was wounded when his tented camp was hit by 2 bombs. He did not, however, allow this to interfere with his personal supervision of the work of unloading and distributing the urgently required supplies. Throughout the operation Wing Commander George displayed great gallantry and his example and coolness whilst under fire were an inspiration to those under his command and contributed largely to the success of the operation.

See London Gazette Issue 36531 at www.thegazette.co.uk

Strictly speaking, Rowland George was never an R.A.F. beach unit officer but his name appears many times in the records of the beach units in the Mediterranean theatre of operations.

His experience of amphibious assault landings began with Operation TORCH, before R.A.F. beach units were formed. After their formation, his appointment as a Senior Movements Staff Officer meant that he was very much involved with R.A.F. beach units, more so because he was the kind of man who liked to take a very active part in operations.

Before the Second World War, Rowland George had been a successful oarsman and won a gold medal at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. At the start of the War he was 34 years old and was commissioned in the Equipment branch of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, becoming an Explosives specialist.

In 1942, as an Acting Squadron Leader, he commanded No. 59 R.A.F. Embarkation Unit, sailing to Algeria for Operation TORCH. Landing on the beach near Surcouf, he claimed for his Unit 'the honour of being the first R.A.F. Embarkation Unit to make an initial landing on enemy occupied territory.’(1) After working on the beaches for the first day, the Unit moved to Algiers but immediately transferred to Maison Blanche airfield, where the Unit worked for over a week. No. 59 R.A.F. Embarkation Unit then moved to the harbour at Bone where Squadron Leader George continued to command the Unit for four months facing, among other challenges, considerable harassment by the Luftwaffe. Near the end of March 1943, Squadron Leader George was posted to Mediterranean Central Command.

For his achievements as Commanding Officer of No. 59 R.A.F. Embarkation Unit in Operation TORCH and at Bone, Rowland George was appointed O.B.E. (Officer of the Military Division of the Order of the British Empire).

Rowland George was promoted to the rank of Acting Wing Commander and became Movements Officer at Headquarters Northwest Africa Tactical Air Force (N.A.T.A.F.). For the invasion of Sicily (Operation HUSKY) Wing Commander George sailed with the R.A.F. units that were landing with the U.S. assault troops at Scoglitti and was again among the first R.A.F. personnel ashore. His participation in the Salerno landings (Operation AVALANCHE) is summed up in the citation (above) for the D.S.O. he was awarded.

At the end of 1943 Wing Commander George played a major part in the re-organisation of R.A.F. beach units for the Central Mediterranean Force, interviewing personnel and making recommendations on the organisation and duties of R.A.F. beach units.

In 1944 Rowland George was Mentioned in Despatches twice and was also appointed Officer of the Legion of Merit by the United States of America in recognition of valuable services rendered in connection with the war.

Rowland George was probably the only officer in the Equipment branch of the R.A.F. to have been decorated with the D.S.O. He died in 1997 aged 92.

 

(1) Operations Record Book of No. 59 RAF Embarkation Unit - found in, ‘Air Ministry and Ministry of Defence: Operations Record Books, Miscellaneous Units’ AIR 29/18 at The National Archives.

 

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