03.17.13 8:00 PM ET
The Story Behind This Photo of an RAF Pilot
Remember that photo of the RAF pilot getting his hair cut between missions?
His name was Francis Mellersh, and it turns out his daughter is a friend-of-a-friend. She sends more of the story:
We have the original of the photo, and the book (he was crazy about John Buchan) and that bloody pipe killed him in the end at 72. I'm afraid those who have been to war and daily diced with death are rather cavalier with their health. I'll tweet you a pic of him in his 60s...the red hair's faded to strawberry blonde but still recognisably the chap getting his hair cut.
Instead of resuming his Oxford studies at the end of the war he remained in the RAF for another 30 plus years and flew right until the end (often with the Red Arrows - stress!). He reached Air Vice Marshal and was Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff. He was a very modest man, very laid-back (that photo says it all) and spoke little of the war.
You'll like this bit. My grandfather, his father, was a WW1 ace and was on the sortie which downed the Red Baron. Forensic historians of course now say he was shot from the ground...my grandfather's eye witness account is often quoted. We have a little box made from Richthofen's propeller wood. He too made a career of the RAF, was in charge of operations in Burma etc in WW2 and, at one point, my father's boss...somewhat disastrously! He died in a bizarre accident shortly after retiring...ironic given he survived the RB.
My grandfather was AVM Sir Francis (FJW) Mellersh, nickname "Tog" and my father AVM Francis (FRL) Mellersh, known always as Togs (nanny's nickname ie. "of Tog"). Quite ridiculous. I have their obituaries and citations and some extracts from Aces High etc as well as my father's log book filled in somewhat irreverently. He flew Beaufighters, Mosquitoes and Spitfires.
Francis Mellersh was twice awarded Britain's Distinguished Flying Cross and was recommended for the Victoria Cross.