AITKIN, S/L The Honourable Max (901288) - Distinguished
Flying Cross - No.601 Sq.
Awarded as per London Gazette dated 9 July 1940
In May 1940, whilst leading a section of aircraft on
patrol over Brussels, this officer attacked one of twelve Heinkel 111s
which was finally seen to be losing height with one of its wings on fire
with black smoke pouring from the other. The next day when leading a section
on another patrol, a large number of Heinkel 111 and Junkers 87 aircraft,
escorted by Messerschmitt 110s, were sighted. Squadron Leader Aitken attacked
and succeeded in destroying one Heinkel and one Junkers aircraft. During
a night in June 1940, in difficult circumstances, he destroyed yet another
enemy aircraft. He has displayed great dash and gallantry.
NOTE: Public Record Office Air 2/4095 has the original
recommendation, prepared about 25 June 1940 which, with additional comments,
makes interesting comparison with the above and demonstrates how honors
were processed and edited.
On 18 May 1940 Flight Lieutenant Aitken whilst leading
a section of the Composite Squadron 601 and 145 on patrol over Brussels
attacked one of twelve Heinkel 111 aircraft, which was last seen losing
height with one plane on fire and the other belching black smoke.
On 19 May 1940, whilst leading a section of the Composite
Squadron 601 and 145 on patrol near Cambrai-Douai, 50-70 Heinkel 111 and
Junkers 87 aircraft escorted by Messerschmitt 110s were sighted. Flight
Lieutenant Aitken attacked a Heinkel 111 which was seen to crash. After
following the aircraft down he sighted a Junkers 87 flying at 100 feet
which he attacked. This officer was recommended for "Mention in Dispatches"
in connection with the low flying attack on Borkum on 28 November 1939
(Copy attached). This recognition was not approved.
The gallantry and dash displayed by this officer is considered
worthy of immediate recognition
The copy of the Borkum raid document is either missing
from the file or was not copied in the course of this research, but the
recommendation just quoted is followed by a long comment dated 27 June
1940 by Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park, Air Officer Commanding, 11 Group:
This officer as a Flight Lieutenant led his section with
dash and determination. As such he took part in the Borkum raid in November
1939, when his flight, on a low-flying attack, machine gunned the enemy.
He has since personally shot down four enemy aircraft - the last one on
the night of 26/27 June 1940, in difficult circumstances as the enemy
aircraft was not illuminated. Since taking over command of his squadron
he has put new spirit and energy into his pilots. I have been considering
this officer for some time and I now recommend him for the immediate award
of the Distinguished Flying Cross.
This document was noted as "Approved" by Air
Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding on 29 June 1940
Born in Montreal, 15 February 1910,
- the son of Max Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook)
Educated at Westminster School, Pembrook College, Cambridge
Joined Royal Auxiliary Air Force in 1935, flying Demons,
- Gauntlets and Blenheim Is with No.601 Squadron
He was influential (say 'Dad') in having it re-equipped with Hurricanes
Served in the Battles of France and Britain
Posted to non-operational duties on 20 July 1940
Promoted Wing Commander
Assumed charge of No.68 Squadron
- (Blenheims, converting to Beaufighters) in February 1941
Posted to Mediterranean as a Group Captain
managed to fly some sorties with No.46 Squadron.
On 5/6 March 1944, piloting Beaufighter LZ330 "F",
he destroyed two Ju.52s, probably destroyed one and damaged one.
His radar observer, F/L G.A. Muir, RCAF, was awarded a DFC.
Late in 1944 returned to United Kingdom where he
commanded the Banff Strike Wing (Coastal Command Mosquitoes) in
Also Mentioned in Dispatches and awarded the Czech
Beaverbrook and Son Form Ideal Team Against Nazis
Father Builds British War Planes While Youngster
Demonstrates Right Methods of Flying Them -
Wins Decoration For Heroic Exploit in Air
London, Aug. 17, 1940 — Two men, father and son,
are busily reducing the disparity between the British and German air forces.
They are tackling the jobs from opposite ends; father builds British machines
while son destroys the German ones.
They are Lord Beaverbrook who, as minister of aircraft production, is
devoting so much skill and energy to making Britain's air arm as formidable
as possible, and his son, the Hon. Max Aitken, whose recent creditable
performances in the air have won for him the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Father knows how to produce the planes; son certainly knows how to fly
Although Squadron-Leader Aitken has accounted for eight German planes
and four more "possibles," the D.F.C. award has been made principally
in recognition of one exploit, which is a rare procedure. The air ministry
announced that, while leading a section of aircraft on patrol over Brussels,
he displayed "great dash and gallantry." It was during this
patrol that he attacked one of twelve Heinkel 111's, which was finally
seen with one of its wings on fire and black smoke pouring from the other.
While leading his section the following day, a large number of Heinkel
111 and Junkers 87 aircraft, escorted by Messerschmitt 110's were sighted.
Squadron-Leader Aitken succeeded in destroying one Heinkel and one Junkers.
During a night in June, in difficult, circumstances, he destroyed yet
another German aircraft.
Now, let us take one typical exploit from this spectacular record.
The attitude of Britain's flying men on defence work is distinctly Micawber-ish.
For three uneventful nights young Max had sat in' his chair, dressed in
his flying clothes and "Mac West"—as they call the yellow
rubber life jackets, so colored to make them conspicuous in the water—"waiting
for something to turn up:' The fourth night was cloudy and moonless. At
12 o'clock the operational phone rang and Max received orders to patrol
a certain line. As he ran out to his fighting plane he could hear the
sirens wailing in a nearby town.
He was excited. The sudden, dramatic summons had broken the monotony of
the previous three nights. He climbed to his ordered height and remained
on his patrol line. An hour went by. Then came a wireless message, telling
him the location of the Germans, who were flying from northwest to southeast.
By a lucky chance he was proceeding in the right direction. Suddenly,
all the searchlights which had been sweeping the night sky below him converged
at a spot, throwing a brilliant luminous effect against a large cloud.
Silhouetted against the cloud were three German aircraft flying across
his starboard beam.
Dead On Mark
Max turned left and slowed down slightly. With a searchlight dead on it,
one of the planes was immediately recognizable as a Heinkel 111. The two
others disappeared, so Max fastened onto the remaining machine. He got
about 100 yards behind and below the Nazi and, from this point, could
clearly see his exhaust flanges.
The German managed to evade the searchlight's beam and go into a dive.
This rather threw out Max's calculations, for he was directly behind and
above him. Getting back into the approximate position, he opened his hood
to see better; then he adjusted his firing button and pressed it Bullets
poured into the German, It was point-blank range. Max could see the tracer
disappearing inside, but nothing seemed to happen except that the Nazi
machine slowed down considerably. He almost overshot his mark, but managed
to put his propeller into line and keep his position.
Max let him have four more bursts. A glow appeared inside the machine,
and, as they had been in a shallow dive and getting nearer the sea, Max
fired the rest of his ammunition into him. The red glow increased; there
could be no doubt that the Nazi was on fire. At 500 feet Max broke away
to the right and tried to follow, but overshot, so he did not see the
Heinkel strike the water. He climbed and released a parachute flare, which,
as it fell toward the sea, revealed the Heinkel lying on the water, a
column of smoke blowing from its rear section.
Max circled over the scene a couple of times, but saw no movement. No
one tried to climb out, so he turned and flew for home.
Born in Montreal
The alert and courageous young hero of these brilliant exploits was born
in Montreal 30 years ago. Educated at Westminster and Pembroke college,
Cambridge, he is a fine, all-round sportsman and an association football
blue A mashie niblick (golf club -ed) or the wheel
of a racing car are maneuvered with as little effort as he appears to
require for handling a joystick. His professional career has been equally
inspiring. Inheriting something of his father's drive, he can work 17
hours a day, in his journalistic and travel enterprises, without losing
grip. Even before the war, he was recognized as one of Britain's best
pilots. Flying one of Lord Beaverbrook's machines, he broke several transport
plane records in America. An officer in the Auxiliary Air Force, he joined
up at the outbreak of war and soon became an ace.
He married last year.
FIVE CANADIANS RECEIVE AWARDS AT INVESTITURE
Congratulated By Ruler For Their Bravery Under Fire
RAID SIRENS WAIL
London, Sept. 3, 1940 — (CP Cable) — The
King decorated five Canadians for bravery at a royal investiture held
in Buckingham palace during an air raid this morning.
Four of them were naval men and the other a squadron leader of the Royal
Air Force. They stood, along with a number of other members of His Majesty's
forces, while the King pinned on their breasts awards for valor.
The naval officers, all acting sub lieutenants, distinguished themselves
during the historic evacuation of allied troops from the hell pocket of
Dunkerque. For their meritorious services each one got the Distinguished
They were: R. W. Timbrell, of Vancouver and the Royal Canadian Navy; James
W. Golby, of Victoria; David Killam, of Vancouver, and Leslie R. McLernon,
of Montreal, all of the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve.
The King pinned the Distinguished Flying Cross on the tunic of Sqdn.-Ldr.
A. C. Brown, of Winnipeg, a veteran of the R.A.F.
Another aviator honored was Sqdn-Ldr. Maxwell Aitken, son of Lord Beaverbrook,
minister of aircraft production.
Three Victoria Crosses were among the 330 honors bestowed during the investiture,
the first ever held while London was under an air raid warning.
When sirens wailed half an hour before the time for the start of the royal
ceremony, officers and others to be decorated already were arriving at
the palace with their relatives. His Majesty personally ordered that the
program was not to be interrupted.
One representative of each of the services received the V.C.
Lt.-Cmdr. Richard Stannard, of His Majesty's trawler Arab, was awarded
the bronze cross for attempting to put out an ammunition dump fire at
Namsos, one of the landing points of the British Expeditionary Force to
Norway last spring.
Second Lieut. Richard Annan, of the Durham Light Infantry, won the cross
for valor under fire. Among his exploits, he disregarded his own wounds
to trundle his wounded batman to safety in a wheelbarrow.
Flt.-Lt. Roderick Learoyd was the air force's V.C. winner. He bombed a
vital link in the Dortmund-Ems canal in the face of point blank anti-aircraft
fire from German batteries.
The King congratulated each one of the Canadians and spoke to them briefly
on their stay in this country and inquired about their length of service.
In addition to their work at Dunkerque most of the Canadians decorated
also participated in the widespread demolition carried out at French ports
before the British withdrawal.
Lieut. Golby helped wreck the massive dock at Le Havre which cradled the
Normandie during her construction. That, he said, was "my outstanding
piece of necessary destruction." Two floating dry-docks used in naval
construction also were dynamited by the sturdy British Columbian.
"The French didn't like to see us playing hob with their belongings,"
he explained. "But we couldn't see them fall into enemy hands."
Lieut. Timbrell, who looks even younger than his 20 years, served aboard
a British warship during the Norwegian operations before taking over command
of a 90-ton royal naval yacht at Dunkerque. His little craft rescued uncounted
hundreds of Tommies and poilus [French infantryman] from the bomb-crushed
beach at Dunkerque.
Lord Beaverbrook took off half an hour from his demanding duties as minister
for aircraft production to see his son decorated.
Aitken with his wife after receiving his DFC at Buckingham Palace in 1940
Shoot Down 11 Germans
The War Reviewed - By W. R. PLEWMAN (Friday, May 1, 1942)
- The British air force did not go hard after German targets last night
but took stronger defensive action. Aided by ground forces and splendid
radio detector apparatus, the British defensive forces shot down 11 out
of 50 German bombers. A squadron led by Max Aitken, son of Lord Beaverbrook,
accounted for three out of eight enemy planes destroyed near the English
coast. He and his comrades were using Beaufort night fighters. A force
of Hurricane fighters that were stalking German bombers as they took off
or as they returned from England, got three of the enemy planes. One Hurricane
pilot downed an enemy as it took off from Rennes, a place known to many
Canadian soldiers, and then, sweeping northward 40 miles, got another
at Dinard on the coast, as it was about to take off.
London states that the British radio locators are superior to anything
possessed by Germany. Equipment has been given to British night fighters
and gunners that gives them a marked advantage over their opponents. The
U.S. has been given the benefit of the British inventions. Today British
squadrons again roamed over northern France.
" NOBLESSE OBLIGE "
(From the TORONTO TELEGRAM, May 2nd 1942) - British social
custom lays great emphasis on the obligation of the sons of privileged
families to serve the State with distinction., This trait, which may be
summed up in the phrase "noblesse oblige," is the sole justification
for privilege. If privilege is accepted as something which lays a special
obligation upon its possessors, it is not unqualified privilege, but merely
the granting of special advantages in the expectation of better results
measured in terms of public service.
In wartime Britain the butcher boy and the civil servant, the bank clerk
and the scion of an ancient house, each is pulling his weight. For some
reason or other it comes as a surprise to people on the North American
Continent that the sons of "the idle and pampered rich," or
the "decadent aristocracy," should distinguish themselves in
the dirtiest jobs. This surprise is due, perhaps, to the lack of a powerful
national tradition of public service and the failure of the opportunist
rich to instill into their offspring a recognition of the trustee nature
of wealth and privilege.
These reflections are prompted by recent reports of the distinguished
service rendered by such men as Lord Louis Mountbatten, Lord Lovat and
recently by young Max Aitken, son of Lord Beaverbrook, who is a wing commander
in the Royal Air Force. Wing Commander Aitken has already won the Distinguished
Flying Cross and on Thursday night led the fighter squadron which, shot
down four out of eight German raiders and scored a personal victory over
a Dornier "80."
Wing Commander Max Aitken, D.F.C., is not a member of a noble house of
ancient lineage, but Lord Beaverbrook has brought up his sons in the British
tradition. While it is fashionable now to sneer at the "old school
tie" and attribute to it all the weaknesses which are found just
as rampant in the other democracies where "old school ties"
are not to be found, there is obviously something to be said for a system
which produces capable and valiant leaders from wealthy and privileged
Strong Bombing Attacks Made on Ruhr,
Rhineland By Canadians and R.A.F
Seven German Bombers Brought Down in Raids on Britain,
Two of Them by the Son of Lord Beaverbrook
London, July 24, 1942 — (CP) — A strong force
of Royal Air Force bombers attacked objectives in western Germany's industrial
Ruhr and Rhineland, the air ministry announced today. At least three Canadian
squadrons participated in this latest smash on the war-bloated industrial
plants of the Ruhr. Nazi-occupied aerodromes in the Low Countries also
were bombed and railways and other targets in invaded territory were attacked
in the night by fighters, the ministry said.
LONDON, July 24 - (CP) - Seven German bombers
were destroyed during the night — and five of them fell to
the Beaufighter squadron led by Wing Cmdr. Max Aitken, son of Lord
Beaverbrook, the air ministry announced today.
Aitken himself was credited with destroying two of the aircraft
- a JU-88 and a Dornier 217 - giving him a total thus far of 12
Seven Bombers Missing
It reported that seven British bombers were missing but two enemy aircraft
were destroyed during the Continental raids. P/O Arthur George Lawrence,
of Brandon, Man., and Sgt. J. F. Wilmer, of Vancouver, formed the crew
of the R.C.A.F. Beaufighter that destroyed one of the German bombers.
Taking up where the night crews left off, a steady stream of British planes
began speeding across the channel toward northern France at dawn today.
The German raids on Britain were the heaviest in weeks.
The Nazi raiders flew through intense anti-aircraft fire to scatter bombs
along the east coast, over the eastern Midlands and some areas further
One town in East Anglia was machine-gunned after the attacking planes
had dropped high explosives.
Following their usual pattern, the Germans dropped flares to light up
the targets before loosing their bombs.
(The Germans said one of their targets was Bedford, industrial town 40
miles north of London.)
A Royal Air Force commentator said that in all about 40 German planes
participated in last night's raids on Britain.
SMALL RAID COSTS NAZIS 7 BOMBERS
RAF Night Fighters Bag Big Percentage of Attacking Force
By RAYMOND DANIELL, New York Times Special to The Globe
and Mail, Copyright London, July, 24, 1942 — Raiding the Ruhr and
the Rhineland and dropping a few more two-ton bombs on Duisburg, the R.A.F.
lost seven bombers last night. But the Nazis, who sent a much smaller
force of raiders (around forty) to Britain, lost seven too — a much
higher percentage, as the Air Ministry pointed out. There was this difference
too — the British bombers flying over Germany managed to destroy
three Nazi fighters, which helped to tip the balance in Britain's favor
on the night's operations.
It was the second time within forty-eight hours that the R.A.F. dumped
two-ton bombs on the massive docks of Duisburg-Ruhrort, an important German
transport center. It was in the nature of completing the job begun on
Tuesday night, when photographs showed what the Air Ministry described
as "one of the most successful raids on the Ruhr that has been carried
Some of Britain's biggest bombers — Lancasters and Halifaxes —
were included in the attacking force. On the other hand, forty Nazi bombers
which came over in force to attack East Anglia were broken up and forced
to carry out scattered raids.
British night fighters had their best hunting since April 30 when eleven
enemy marauders were shot down. Last night's total represented the destruction
of raiders at the rate of 17 per cent, which is pretty high when it is
remembered that the R.A.F. lost less than 5 per cent in their 1,000-bomber
raids on Cologne and Essen.
Five of the seven Nazi bombers shot down over Britain last night fell
to one night fighter squadron of the fighter command. These Beaufighters,
led by Wing Commander Max Aitken, elder son of Lord Beaverbrook, have
shot down fifteen raiders this year. Aitken himself claimed two bombers
last night, bringing his own total to twelve.
For its own activities the Air Ministry made no claim about bombing Duisburg.
It was the Germans who said that the industrial center at the juncture
of the Rhine and the Ruhr was the chief objective. All that was said here
about the size of the raiding force was that it was several times greater
than the enemy sent here. The weather was far from perfect for raiding
Germany, a large part of the Ruhr being covered by cloud. There were breaks
in the cloud, however, when the R.A.F. bombers could see their bombs bursting
on the target, and when Nazi fighters dived in and intercepted them, exchanging
One Junkers 88 was shot down by a Lancaster and one each by a Halifax
and a Wellington.
While the big fellows were at their work deep in Germany fighters on intruder
patrol attacked railways and other targets in occupied territory. It was
all part of a heavy attack on Germany from two directions, for while the
British were raiding the Ruhr the Russian Air Force was bombing strategic
centers in East Prussia.
During daylight hours the R.A.F. kept up its offensive over German-occupied,
territory. Throughout the day residents in seacoast towns heard and saw
R.A.F. planes flying in a steady stream to the Continent. It was probably
just a routine sweep, but it was of formidable proportions.
Beaverbrook's Son Is Awarded D.S.O.
London, Aug. 1, 1942 — (CP) — Wing-Cmdr.
Max Aitken, son of Lord Beaverbrook, was awarded the Distinguished Service
Order today. He is credited personally with the destruction of 12 German
night raiders and the total bag of his present Czech squadron is 15. He
received the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1940 and the Czech War Cross
two days ago.
AITKIN, W/C The Honourable Max (901288) - Distinguished
Service Order - No.68 Sq.
Awarded as per London Gazette dated 14 August 1942
A brilliant pilot and a gallant leader, this officer
has set a most inspiring example. By his exceptional skill and unswerving
devotion to duty he has contributed largely to the high standard of operational
efficiency of his squadron and to the successes it has achieved. One night
in July 1942 the squadron destroyed three hostile aircraft, two of which
were destroyed by Wing Commander Aitken himself. His total victories number
Max renounced his father's title immediately upon inheriting
He Died May 1st 1985