Ronald Frederick Tooke

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30.01.1921 - 03.03.2012

On 23rd May 1939, aged 18 Ronald Tooke joined the Royal Air Force. He trained as an aircraft engine mechanic at St Athan and was then assigned to no 17 Fighter Squadron of Hurricanes operating out of Martlesham Heath in Suffolk. He was part of 3 man crew – Pilot, Airframe Mechanic & Engine Mechanic. They were on duty from dawn to dusk, flying out of Debden, Kenley, Hawkinge and Martlesham Heath.

He was sent along with five other ground crew on detachment to Le Mans (France) in support of the troops returning to Dunkirk. They were left in France and made their own way back to England via Jersey walking on foot for 6 days to St Malo where they boarded a boat to Jersey.

In November 1941 he was drafted to 89 Squadron of Beaufighter night fighters at Abu Suer (Middle-East). He travelled there by troop ship around the Cape of Good Hope. He lived under canvas in holes in the sand, one of each trade in each dug-out, no beds or mattresses – only sand to lie on. He stayed in Aber Suer until 1943.

In early 1943 one from each trade was despatched to Calcutta flying by Empire Flying boat from Cairo via Basra and Gwalior to the Hougly River in Calcutta. Next morning two of the Squadron Beaufighters arrived at Dum Dum and the ground-crew prepared them for operations. The first night the aircraft shot down three Japanese fighters in four minutes. The next night they shot down two more. The unit moved further into Burma where they were joined by a squadron of Beaufighters from the UK.

The small detachment was disbanded and he was posted to Air Headquarters Communications Flight in New Delhi. He became crew chief on the Viceroy’s aircraft a Dakota, initially Lord Wavell’s, later his successor Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten’s. The Dakota replaced the York aircraft he was transferred on to that aircraft as crew chief.

With the partition of India in 1947 he returned by troop ship the SS Otranto to the UK and he was posted to RAF Abingdon on second-line servicing of York aircraft. During the winter of 1948 he was sent on detachment for 5 months to Wunsdorf in Germany as part of the Berlin Air-lift .

In 1952 he was posted to RAF Lyneham to the Rectification Flight. Between October 20th and December 5th 1952 he serviced the engines of two Hastings aircraft which supported Canberra Bombers from no 12 Squadron on a 24,000 mile goodwill tour with air displays around South America & the Carribean

In 1954 he was promoted to Flight Sergeant awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) and posted to RAF Benson on the ferry unit which ferried aircraft all over the world. These aircraft were on transit to the RAF stations abroad be it Germany, Aden, Malta or Cyprus. The numerous fighter aircraft included the Mosquito, Hawker Hunter, Venom, Vampire, Javelin and Meteor jets.

In 1957 Ron was selected for interview by Air Commodore Sir Edward Fielden along with 15 others for post to as SNCO Engineering on The Queen’s Flight. The next day he found he was posted there. He served as SNCO on the Queen’s Flight until his retirement in January 1976 and was awarded the MBE in the New Year’s honours list for January 1976. In 1970 he was awarded the Royal Victoria Medal for services to the Royal Family.

The citation for his MBE illustrates his achievements during this period:

“During his unique tour of duty with The Queen’s Flight he was responsible for the servicing of a wide variety of aircraft. The results he achieved were truly outstanding.

His sustained efforts throughout the period of his 18 years have been largely responsible for establishing within the Flight of the highest possible standards of engineering and discipline; this in turn has achieved unsurpassed aircraft service-ability and availability.

Warrant Officer Tooke’s outstanding qualities are his personal commitment, no matter what obstacles are presented, to serving the Royal Family through the medium of The Queen’s Flight. He is utterly loyal and will willingly subordinate his personal life to achieve the aims of the Flight. Although dedicated and forceful, Warrant Officer Tooke takes a sincere and compassionate interest in the lives of the Queen’s Flight airman and their families. Without exception he has personally visited every airman who has been ill or bereaved either in hospital or at home, throughout his 18 year career. During extended Royal Tours Warrant Officer Tooke has over-come daunting engineering problems, coercing the resources and authority of whatever agencies are available to ensure success”.

A list of the major Tours that he participated in:
1959 - Her Majesty the Queen Mother’s tour of Kenya
1960 - Her Majesty the Queen Mother’s tour of Rhodesia & Nyasaland
1961 - Her Royal Highnesses the Princess Alexandra’s tour of Thailand and Burma
1961 - Her Majesty the Queen’s & His Royal Highness Prince Philip’s tour of Nepal
1962 - The Duke & Duchess of Kent’s tour of Uganda
1963 – The Duke & Duchess of Gloucester’s Tour of Jordan and Cyprus
1963 – His Royal Highness The Prince Philip’s tour of Borneo & Malaysia
1964 – His Royal Highness The Prince Philip’s tour of Mexico and The Caribbean
1965 – His Royal Highness The Prince Philip’s tour of The Far East & India
1965 – His Royal Highness The Prince Philip’s tour of Canada
1968 - Her Majesty the Queen’s tour of Brazil & Chile
1969 – The Duke of Kent’s tour of India

Added by: Mano Chandy on 15th June 2012.


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