|Title||Ronald Berry: Hull’s Spitfire ‘Ace’|
|Published by||Don Chester
tel: 01482 634136
|Price||Recommended Retail Price £8.50.
Can be obtained from local bookshops or directly from publisher by email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Air Commodore Ronald “Ras” Berry was one of the leading fighter pilots of his day and one of the RAF’s top fighter aces. Berry fought with the Royal Air Force throughout the war, starting with the Battle of Britain with No. 603 Squadron where he made his reputation as an excellent fighter pilot, shooting down three Messerschmitts in a day.
The remarkable wartime exploits of this man are recalled in a new publication entitled ‘Ronald Berry- Hull’s Spitfire Ace’ by East Yorkshire author, Don Chester.
Ronald Berry, who grew up in East Hull, was a clerk with Hull City Council in 1937 when he was attracted to take up flying with the newly formed Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He learned to fly in a Blackburn B 2 biplane at Brough. He qualified as a fighter pilot just as World War Two began and joined a crack Spitfire squadron. In the Battle of Britain and its immediate aftermath, in 1940, he shot down 10 enemy aircraft and shared in the destruction or damage of numerous others for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).
This was the first of three gallantry awards he received from King George VI, as Berry rose from Sgt.Pilot to Wing Commander by the end of the War. After commanding a Spitfire squadron in many missions over France in 1942 he went on to lead a Wing of five squadrons in Tunisian campaign. By the end of it he had received a second DFC followed by the Distinguished Service Order for his outstanding skills and leadership. At the completion of the campaign, in May 1943, his personal score had risen to 17 confirmed ‘kills’ plus 11 shared, a variety of other ‘probable’ and damaged victims as well as 7 aircraft on the ground as a result of leading raids on enemy airfields.
Post -war, Ronald Berry remained in the RAF, occupying a number of senior staff appointments including that of Commanding Officer and senior pilot of one of the country’s first V-Bomber squadrons as the RAF undertook responsibility for developing Britain’s nuclear deterrent force during the 1950s tension- filled Cold War period.
In 1965 Group Captain Berry was selected as one of fourteen former Battle of Britain pilots, representing ‘The Few’, to lead the cortege at the State Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill.
He received the OBE and later the CBE before retiring as an Air Commodore in 1969. He and his wife, Nancy, lived quietly in Hornsea and later Beverley during retirement and he died in 2000 at the age of eighty three.
The author of the book, Don Chester commented:
“My memoir shows he was an authentic local hero who has somehow been publicly overlooked, despite his high reputation in RAF circles. He flew over 400 combat missions and was never shot down which, given the ferocious fighting of the Battle of Britain and North African campaigns, was a phenomenal achievement. He was an exceptional pilot and leader of men in battle and very probably Hull’s greatest airman; he should not be forgotten”.
The story is illustrated by a set of photos, mainly from Imperial War Museum collection, which include a formal portrait of Berry as Wing Commander in North Africa. Another picture is of Berry’s Spitfire Mk. IX, coded EN199, which has recently been restored by the Malta Aviation Museum at Ta’Qali and is the collection’s principal exhibit. When Berry returned home after Operation Torch this aircraft was flown by Colin Gray, the famous New Zealand Ace, so it had an illustrious history.
Mr Chester’s book is fittingly launched shortly before the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain celebrations in July.