Spitfire Mk Ia P9398 (Coded KL-B) flown by F/O A.C. Deere of No 54 Sqn, May 1940, Battle of France
Alan Christopher Deere is possibly New Zealand’s most famous fighter pilot of the Second World War. He was also one of the luckiest, surviving several near-death experiences to become one of the outstanding pilots of the Battle of Britain.
In mid-May of 1940, Deere destroyed six Luftwaffe aircraft over Dunkirk (and was shot down himself), and claimed another eight between July and September 1940 during the Battle of Britain.
A short tour of the United States teaching fighter tactics to American pilots was followed by command of a Canadian Spitfire squadron and, in February 1943, an appointment as Wing Leader at RAF Biggin Hill. During his tenure at Biggin Hill, Deere led more than 120 sorties, and earned a DSO, before going on to command the Free French fighter wing through D-Day and the liberation of France.
Deere finished the war as New Zealand’s second-highest-scoring air ace – behind Colin Gray – with 22 confirmed victories, 10 probable victories and 18 damaged. During the war he was awarded a DSO and DFC & Bar and, in May 1945, an Order of the British Empire (OBE).
Photo by Frank Steffens