View Full Version : Who is the most iconic RAF figure of World War Two?

13th Nov 2009, 15:41
Here at the RAF Benevolent Fund (RAFBF) we are holding a poll to find the most iconic RAF figure of World War Two.

To vote please visit:

www.rafbf90.org.uk (http://www.rafbf90.org.uk)

The poll is featured on our special 90th anniversary website, “90 Faces of the RAFBF”, which features 90 stories about our history, fundraisers and supporters.

If you visit you can listen to Winston Churchill's famous 1951 radio appeal on behalf of the RAFBF, watch videos of beneficiaries and serving RAF personnel describe how we help, and learn about the enormous support we enjoy among the RAF family.

13th Nov 2009, 20:58
P/O Prune not on the list of choices?????
Sorry, had to ask:E

14th Nov 2009, 12:00
I've just voted and am horrified at the omissions - no Leonard Cheshire or Sailor Malan for instance. But even worse, is the person leading the poll at the moment - a certain DB - God forbid that he should win when such iconic characters as Dowding and Park are in the poll..................:(

14th Nov 2009, 12:04
Why is Keith Park not on the list?

Agaricus bisporus
14th Nov 2009, 15:36
If the question is "who is the most iconic" then it must be Bader. No question.
He's probably the only one any member of the general public would be able to name. Few outside the realms of aviation groupies like us have even heard of Cheshire or Park, let alone Malan. There might be a different answer to "most influential" etc, but that is not what's been asked.

And why "God forbid"? He's simply the best known = iconic. Fact.

15th Nov 2009, 11:07
DB - certainly had the full support of the Air Ministry publicity machine so yes, he was/is certainly very well known - hardly equates to iconic status does it? I'm resonably well read on WW2, in particular the RAF and to suggest that Bader is in the same league as Dowding, Park and Cheshire is a travesty IMHO..................

Ridge Runner
15th Nov 2009, 13:26
but Ab is correct. If it is "iconic" they want he would be the top of the list. It doesn't reflect of achievement etc.... Its all in the words..... RR

15th Nov 2009, 15:51
The Clive James broadcast at 8.50 this morning on Radio 4 had a very good piece about Keith Park. He mentioned about how both he and Dowding were sidelined after the Battle of Britain was safely won. I suppose it is true to say that for reasons already discussed he is not an iconic figure, in the accepted meaning of the term. Indeed James quoted a female columnist from a quality newspaper (he didnt specify which, but I'm guessing The Guardian here) who admitted that until the publicity about the statue on the fourth plinth she had never heard of Park. James was scathing about the lack of knowledge displayed by a major journalist, but it sort of proves the point that whatever great qualities Park possessed he was not interested in self-publicity, and thus failed to achieve iconic status.

Bader will no doubt win, but he wont be getting my vote.

15th Nov 2009, 17:12
I did vote for Bader, simply because he is the best known RAF figure of WWII and post-war. He had charismatic qualities as a leader, which, along with his escapades, set him up as legend in his own lifetime. The popularity of the book and film, by Brickhill, ensured his post-war fame.

I am perfectly aware of his contentious role in the 'Big Wing' theory and in the contemptible sidelining of Dowding and Park. Nevertheless, his achievments in overcoming his disabilities to once again becoming an operational fighter pilot were incredible, and stand as a real inspiration to severely disabled people to this day.

15th Nov 2009, 20:38
Gibson's dog?

15th Nov 2009, 20:48
Gibson's dog?

I think his master deserves the accolade too.

16th Nov 2009, 01:50
Also surprised by the omission of Johnnie Johnson. If you're the highest scoring Allied ace in the European theatre and still don't make the list.....

16th Nov 2009, 08:27
I'm ex-Bomber Command and I spent two decades in Brunei where Bader left a somewhat different reputation. Guy Gibson has my vote.

Barksdale Boy
16th Nov 2009, 13:34
I'm ex 617. No doubt: Guy Gibson; have voted thus.

16th Nov 2009, 21:19
Of course if one were able to vote on whom one would like to be the most iconic.........well, that's a different matter. I would like Guy Gibson also, though I would have preferred either Leonard Cheshire or Bob Stanford Tuck, had they been in the frame.

Sadly, nice though these choices are, they will not turn out to be the most iconic.

16th Nov 2009, 21:59
I must confess that G P Gibson was my boyhood hero. I would certainly put Lucky Tuck before Douglas the stunt pilot. Arguably the Bomber Boys won the war for us but the Fighter Boys avoided our losing it for us.

Iconic is a vastly over used cliche anyway.

17th Nov 2009, 12:36
...Douglas the stunt pilot...Bader gets a lot of credit for having the bottle to return to flying without his legs, but its important to remember how he lost them.

PPRuNe Pop
17th Nov 2009, 14:27
Arguably the Bomber Boys won the war for us but the Fighter Boys avoided our losing it for us.

I do like that!

Bader always said at every opportunity that he was in a collison with a Me 109. RAF facts show that he was shot down. He probably didn't like to admit it but that is what happened. But, as most say, he will probably be recognised because he WAS recognised.

My man is Park. I shall be at Waterloo Place next September to see the bronze statue of him finally put in place.

17th Nov 2009, 17:52
Iconic figure? Depends on the definition of iconic. In reality it's a Spitfire and a Hurricane, everyone/everything else was a bit player.

Bending the rules slightly, Mitchell and Camm.

Or Cunningham.

18th Nov 2009, 21:19
I'm sorry folks but to equate well known with iconic is surely a mistake? Or is my Collins Concise(c1600pgs) English Dictionary wrong? Or am I misunderstanding it's definition of icon/iconic? Please enlighten me...........I'm not disputing Bader's high profile with the general public but...iconic? Absolutely not in my book. And, because the 'public' are generally ignorant of the role and deeds of such great men as Park and Dowding, does it not make it more important to show them the light and educate them - or are we happily going to gloss over the reality and dumb down as is the fashion these days? :yuk:

Icon: (4) A person regarded as a sex symbol or as a symbol of a belief or cultural movement

18th Nov 2009, 22:23
Sid, what edition of the OED do you have? Because mine defines icon as "a person regarded with particular admiration". I would hold that Bader is probably held thus, rightly or wrongly, by many more people.

As a jazz musician, it galls me that Benny Goodman is hailed as a great, if not the greatest jazz clarinettist. Or Stephan Grapelli the greatest jazz fiddle player. Both are eclipsed in spades, but nothing will change the public's perceptions of them, or of Bader.

18th Nov 2009, 23:02
I'm sorry but it's bomber Harris. He remains the most famous, most controversial and probably the person who had the most influence on how the war was won of all the RAF figures including Park and Dowding.

Bader was never more than a good fighter pilot with an eye for publicity. Legs or no legs, he would have been famously outspoken and a good fighter pilot. But he was never someone to rise too high up the ranks.

Gibson was famous because of the dams raid but was much disliked by his own men.

Having movies made about you does not an icon make.

Dan Winterland
18th Nov 2009, 23:39
"Having movies made about you does not an icon make''.

But it certainly helps! Being an icon is as much about public perception as anything else. I would say that the most ''iconic'' figure was Bader. If they were all up stage on a reality TV show called "Pilot Idol" then he would probably win.

Now if they had asked "who was the most singnificant'' it would mean something else completely. I believe they had actually meant to ask us that, but due the the celebrity culture we now live in, they had to use a modern journalistic phrase.

I treated the question as "significant'' and voted for Dowding. Because without his insight and organisation, we would have lost the Battle of Britain and would all be speaking German now.

19th Nov 2009, 18:36
I treated the question as "significant'' and voted for Dowding. Because without his insight and organisation, we would have lost the Battle of Britain and would all be speaking German now.


If icon means "figure/object highest in the public eye" then it's a Spitfire.

24th Nov 2009, 14:30
Many thanks for your votes in our poll to find the most iconic RAF figure of World War Two. At the moment Air Chief Marshal Dowding leads the pack, with Bader, Harris and Gibson following on close behind.

This poll has led to some great discussion about what constitutes an iconic figure, and plenty of debate about the merits of certain candidates, so we have decided to leave the poll open until the end of the year.

Please do cast your vote if you haven’t already, we would love to hear your views.

90 faces of the RAF Benevolent Fund (http://www.rafbf90.org.uk/)

25th Nov 2009, 12:32
Great news that someone of the calibre of H C T Dowding is leading - priase the Lord that 'justice' might just prevail..........:ok:

25th Nov 2009, 17:58
Not a well known WW2 pilot , but Adrian Warburton was rather a special person, not an establishment figure, but certainly a hugely successfull and individual pilot. It is possible that his eccentric private life ensured that he wasn't a public relations success for the RAF, but his story certainly puts him above the more well known names of the time.
Adrian Warburton - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrian_Warburton)

BR om15.

7th Dec 2009, 16:00
The vote to find the most iconic RAF figure of World War Two is gathering pace. Air Marshal Dowding continues to lead but Bader is close behind, while Gibson and Harris are very nearly neck and neck.

However, the vote remains closely fought, so please do visit

www.rafbf90.org.uk (http://www.rafbf90.org.uk/)

and make your choice if you haven’t already – every vote counts!

7th Dec 2009, 17:41
If you don't want DB to win, there is only one answer - vote for Dowding! :ok:

Otherwise the anti-DB vote gets split. :(


8th Dec 2009, 17:04
Interesting thought prompted by the death of Richard Todd. The usual case in the cinema is that a great hero is played by an actor who is in real life nowhere near the stature of the character he or she is playing. Interesting that Kenneth More and Richard Todd, generally accepted as good guys, played characters who in reality were, shall we say, more "complex" than as portrayed. Then that's life rather than art, I suppose.

10th Dec 2009, 17:46
grand total of 737 votes as of now - not exactly a massive and broad cross-section of society is it?

PS the most iconic on the list surely is Winnie? gets my vote :ok:

6th Jan 2010, 12:45
Thanks to all who have cast their votes on the most iconic RAF figure of World War Two. The online poll has been very popular so we are keeping it open until the end of January.

So there’s still time to give your opinion – every vote counts!

http://www.rafbf90.org.uk/ (http://www.rafbf90.org.uk/)

At the moment Air Chief Marshal Dowding leads the pack, with Bader, Harris and Gibson following on close behind.

The game is hosted on the RAF Benevolent Fund’s special 90th anniversary microsite, “90 Faces of the RAF Benevolent Fund”. The microsite is full of stories and anecdotes about the charity, the people we help and our supporters. Please do have a look around the site after placing your vote, and learn more about the RAF’s leading welfare charity.

6th Jan 2010, 13:46
Where is Sir Basil Embry?? How many Air Vice Marshalls regularly flew on operations?? Look at his tally of decorations, and his outstanding record in No 2 Group, Bomber Command?? I can't believe he doesn't rate a mention. DB was an arrogant prick, whose own stupidity led to the loss of his legs. There are plenty of people who will say he was an expert pilot, but suffered from serious personality flaws. He looked for, and got, more publicity than others, and that's why his name is on peoples lips.

Basil Embry - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basil_Embry)

6th Jan 2010, 20:03
Guy Gibson gets my vote......a true sky warrior

6th Jan 2010, 20:04
C'mon you politically correct lot. It's just got to be Bomber Harris. He's the one who really stuffed it to the Boche! If you want to win a war you need guys like him.:ok:

Double Zero
6th Jan 2010, 20:40
It has to be Dowding; my personal preference would be Adrian Warburton but not many will have even heard of him.

As for DB, apart from lying about being shot down etc, he treated everyone - especially his 'batman' at Colditz - like crap, and only lost his legs through bufoonery; I used to work with a chap who'd been young groundcrew at Tangmere, they held a party the night he didn't return !

I also met a Spitfire pilot shot down and imprisoned early on in the B of B; for a while he was in the same camp as DB. He remarked that while he had a good fighting spirit, " yes, we all had a good word for Bader, but I can't say it in front of your wife "...

6th Jan 2010, 21:53
No-one has mentioned Air Vice Marshal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Vice_Marshal) James Edgar "Johnnie" Johnson CB (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_the_Bath), CBE (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_the_British_Empire), DSO (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distinguished_Service_Order) & Two Bars (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medal_bar), DFC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distinguished_Flying_Cross_%28United_Kingdom%29) & Bar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medal_bar)

He was C.O of Cottesmore when I was there, as an erk, in 1959.

7th Jan 2010, 03:32

You missed my vote in Post 12. His book "Full Circle" is still one of the few that looks at the history of fighter tactics.

Hugh Spencer
7th Jan 2010, 11:31
I may be biassed but Sir Arthur Harris is the one for me. During the years he was in command of Bomber Command, he was involved every day in viewing the previous night's bombing photographs to decide whether we would have to go back the next night. It is not surprising that he did not manage to visit many bomber stations, he was so involved in assessing and planning. He was 'Butch@ Harris because he was determined and forthright in his actions.

Lightning Mate
9th Jan 2010, 19:55

Large testicles, which would not go amiss today. Maybe it's part of evolution...............sadly......

I have have had the dubious 'honour' of meeting Douglas Bader.

Within minutes of the presentation by the Officer Commanding we all left the officers' mess bar and went to to the local pub, where people were at least friendly.


10th Jan 2010, 16:02

You missed my vote in Post 12. His book "Full Circle" is still one of the few that looks at the history of fighter tactics.

Oops, yes, I missed that, but I miss a lot of things at my age! :)
I have his book. He was C.O at Cottesmore when I was there as an erk.

10th Jan 2010, 16:10
I don't like the question, it's poorly worded and probably was drawn up without much thought. The word 'iconic' does not necessarily imply positive qualities, but refers to how well-known or memorable the person is, and for that reason it has to be Bader, whom most of the public would instantly come up with.

If the question were worded in what I feel a more appropriate way, it would ask who is the most 'meritorious' or 'worthy' RAF figure of WW2, and that would elicit a different response. Guy Gibson would then have my vote, and not out of any disrespect to Bader, but I feel more is owed to Gibson than to Bader, brave as he was.

Who was the most iconic German figure in WW2? Adolf Hitler, I would think. Does that prove my point?

Just a spotter
11th Jan 2010, 17:28
If we're sticking to Iconic, rather that influential or most significant, then may I be so bold as to suggest that it wasn't so much an individual but rather a group; all those non-British, non-Commonwealth, individuals from nations not engaged in the conflict who fought because they believed that cause was just (the same goes equally for those who joined the various arms of all Allied forces).

IMHO, the symbolism of their efforts and sacrifice; not fighting for a god, a king or a country, but rather out of a sense of right and wrong, transcends that of the eminent names suggested.


15th Jan 2010, 02:08
Gallent Adolf "Give me a staffel of Spitfires" Galland.
A great flyer,fighter and commander.

henry crun
15th Jan 2010, 07:11
dmussen: Given the thread title, are you under the impression that Galland was in the RAF ?

15th Jan 2010, 20:02
My vote is for Buzz Beurling.


19th Jan 2010, 13:57

I would go for Basil Embry of Mosquitto fame.

20th Jan 2010, 11:00
Should have a supplementary section for mavericks such as 'Screwball' Beurling and 'Ginger' Lacey.

22nd Jan 2010, 11:53
Neville Duke met him a few times when he was flying Dowtys dove what a nice guy