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Air Marshal Sir Peter Bairsto, KBE, RAF - obit

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Air Marshal Sir Peter Bairsto, KBE, RAF - obit

Old 11th Nov 2017, 08:23
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Air Marshal Sir Peter Bairsto, KBE, RAF - obit

Impressive obituary in The Times today. Anybody here any insight on the chap?


In 1957 Peter Bairsto won an Air Force Cross for a near-impossible “dead-stick” landing in which he saved his aircraft, a Hawker Hunter. Over the next quarter-century he notched up more than 5,000 flying hours and gained a reputation so high in the esteem of his fellow commanders that late in his career — when he was expecting to retire to Scotland — he would be “plucked, promoted, knighted, and sent south” to be the deputy commander of RAF Strike Command on the eve of the 1982 Falklands war.

It was Bairsto who would deliver urgently needed extra firepower in the shape of ten GR1 and GR3 Harriers in a complex logistics operation involving flights to Ascension Island using air-to-air refuelling. The aircraft later carried out decisive ground-attack operations against Argentine positions as British forces made perilous amphibious landings at San Carlos.

Bairsto was sought out for the job by Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Williamson, the commander-in-chief of RAF Strike Command, with whom he had worked before. Bairsto had gained a reputation as a forceful station commander at RAF Honington in Suffolk, where he was nicknamed “the Bear”.

As a boy he had dreamt of becoming a pilot. He volunteered to fly in 1944 as soon as he reached 18 and was one of those who braved a high accident rate among those pilots flying early jet fighter aircraft, such as the Gloster Meteor. “Places like [the training establishment at] Driffield were a Meteor bloodbath,” he noted. “At Worksop, where I instructed, we counted on one fatality a month . . . when 43 Squadron converted to the first Hunters we had six serious crashes, including fatalities, in the first six months.”

He was lucky to survive. While flying far out over the North Sea on a day of thick cloud in 1956, Bairsto heard the engine on his Hawker Hunter cut out at 42,000ft. Instead of bailing out he made a circling approach and managed to glide the aircraft safely to a landing at RAF Leuchars.

It was an era when flying prowess was used for Cold War propaganda. Bairsto commanded the “Fighting Cocks” formation team of 43 Squadron, which several times won the competition to be the RAF’s official display team. However, he came to deplore what he called “the British propensity to produce magnificent flying machines with excellent engine/airframe combinations that were totally inadequate as integrated weapons systems”. He said the American F86 Sabre jet fighter was “the finest aircraft” he flew.

Peter Edward Bairsto was born in Liverpool in 1926, the son of Arthur Bairsto — who ran the family business, Bairsto Dairy, supplying milk to passenger liners — and his wife, Beatrice. The family moved out of the city to live in north Wales, where Peter attended Rhyl Grammar School and learnt to speak Welsh. After training with the Fleet Air Arm in Canada, he transferred to the RAF.

While serving in Palestine after the war, he was wounded in a terrorist attack on an armoured car, which left shrapnel in his leg for the rest of his life. He met his future wife, Kathleen Clarbour — always known as Kathie — at a beach party on Christmas Day in 1946. The couple were married the next year in Jerusalem. They had a daughter, Helen, who became an investment banker, as well as gaining her pilot’s licence, and two sons, Nigel and Clive, who joined the RAF and became air vice-marshals. The family remember joining Bairsto on a posting to Cyprus, where he took them all for a flight in a four-engined Handley Page Hastings transport aircraft that was based at RAF Nicosia.

In 1979 he was made Commander, HQ Northern Maritime Air Region/AOC Scotland & Northern Ireland, and he joined Strike Command in 1981. He remained a man of forceful opinion.

His daughter learnt to fly and his sons became air vice-marshals
Bairsto grew fond of Scotland and he and Kathie made their home at St Andrews. He played golf, enjoyed fishing on the Spey and was a good shot. When he retired in 1984 he became an adviser to Ferranti and worked part-time for the Lord Chancellor’s Office on planning inquiries.

Kathie died in 2008. Two years later Bairsto married Pamela Braid (née Gibson), a long-time family friend. She survives him, with his daughter and sons.

Bairsto was a great admirer of the Americans. An acquaintance remembers a conversation about Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War satire Dr Strangelove, with its portrayals by George C Scott and Sterling Hayden of characters said to be based on the US air force chief General Curtis LeMay and his deputy, General Thomas Power. Asked about Power, Bairsto is said to have replied that he was “an unequalled air force logistician”. When his friend commented that many people thought Power was “off the wall”, Bairsto replied: “Well, no one’s perfect!”

Air Marshal Sir Peter Bairsto, KBE, RAF officer, was born on August 3, 1926. He died on October 24, 2017, aged 91

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Wee Weasley Welshman is offline  
Old 11th Nov 2017, 09:39
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RIP sir. Never met you, but on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month we remember you and all who served.
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Old 11th Nov 2017, 09:43
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RIP indeed ... and an 'interesting' career.

He was our much-feared Stn Cdr at Honington [parent unit of Eastern Radar, Watton]. Mercifully I never fell foul of him.

And both sons made AVM!! ... I knew Clive.
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Old 11th Nov 2017, 12:03
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Wee Weasley Welshman (#1),
“Places like [the training establishment at] Driffield were a Meteor bloodbath”
I went through Driffield in January 1950, but I don't recall any fatalities among my fellow studes (although my Instructor managed to kill himself in a Vampire). But over an 18-momth period around this time, the RAF lost 900 plus Meteors and 400 plus pilots, mostly in training.

This did not arouse any particular concern then. There had always been plenty of Prunes to fill the gaps during the war; now Prune had become Bloggs but the thinking did not change. "Flight Safety" was still an oxymoron: its time had not yet come.

Danny.
 
Old 11th Nov 2017, 13:22
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As OC Flying at RAF Nicosia c. 1962 Bairsto had a massive run-in with the P Met O regarding accountability and line management. It ended with both appearing before the staish [who was, I believe, Mickey Martin the dambuster].

Previous P Met Os in Cyprus had been content with the anomalous situation whereby, although they were responsible for all Met. support for the RAF and Army in the eastern Med [and thus ultimately responsible to the A o C], and paid Mess bills as Wing Commanders, their line manager was OC Flying. It was normal elsewhere for P Met Os to report to a SASO, usually an Air Cdre,

I was a lowly young forecaster at the Nicosia airfield office, but we heard of the "goings-on" and trembled.

This was one battle that Bairsto lost, and P Met O thereafter reported to the staish.
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Old 11th Nov 2017, 13:28
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I was a very young SAC 'Ops Clerk' working in the 'Pit' when he was AOSNI, a man to be feared if you cocked up, remembering at least one famous bollocking to a SAR Sea King captain, and I remember on my second tour there him ringing the RCC to say that he would assist with the operation when a Sea King crashed in Northern Fife near his home, strong but fair I would have said in my humble SAC opinion.
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Old 11th Nov 2017, 17:00
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Surprised that the Telegraph obit failed to elicit any comment within these portals, since he is particularly remembered within Royal Air Force circles for the degree of compassion which he exercised over those subordinate to him.


I should imagine certain people, within these portals, were ensuring 'The Bear' (shudder) was actually dead before 'particularly remembering' him and commenting.
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Old 11th Nov 2017, 17:54
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Just maybe .........

......they are aware of the Latin tag "de mortuis nil nisi bonum" and have decided to stay schtum. With good reason.

The Ancient Mariner
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Old 11th Nov 2017, 18:11
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Rossian

Oh so true. But, privately.........................
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Old 11th Nov 2017, 18:30
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It's an obituary - not an obit

(innit )
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Old 11th Nov 2017, 19:03
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There were 2 sides to The Bear. As I noted earlier, I'm glad I only encountered one of them.

However ... that could be said for many of us survivors, I suspect.
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Old 18th Nov 2017, 21:10
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I was OC GD at Akrotiri in 1983 when he visited. The first draft of my VI included the spelling 'Bairstow'. I was re-educated - fortunately well before he arrived! I didn't meet him, I don't think, but I did know Clive at one point, who is in my thoughts.
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Old 19th Nov 2017, 11:33
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Yes, I thought he 'Kept Wicket' for England'.

AD.
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Old 19th Nov 2017, 21:00
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Originally Posted by Danny42C
Wee Weasley Welshman (#1),
I went through Driffield in January 1950, but I don't recall any fatalities among my fellow studes (although my Instructor managed to kill himself in a Vampire). But over an 18-momth period around this time, the RAF lost 900 plus Meteors and 400 plus pilots, mostly in training.

This did not arouse any particular concern then. There had always been plenty of Prunes to fill the gaps during the war; now Prune had become Bloggs but the thinking did not change. "Flight Safety" was still an oxymoron: its time had not yet come.

Danny.
900 Meteors and 400 pilots in 18 months? That sounds incredible . . .
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Old 20th Nov 2017, 06:04
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McDuff,

But essentially true as to the high level of aircraft attrition and casualties. However, the devil is in the detail.

The actual totals were:
1950 - 380 aircraft/238 fatals
1951 - 490 aircraft/280 fatal casualties
1952 - 507 aircraft/318 fatal casualties
1953 - 483 aircraft/333 fatal casualties
1954 - 452 aircraft/283 fatal causalties

It 'improved' after that - only 305/182 in 1955!!!

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Old 20th Nov 2017, 12:58
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This may help.

Originally Posted by A2QFI
I have just come across a review of a book called "Meteor - Eject" by Nick Carter. The book contains statistics about loss rates, can anybody who served in the 50/60s confirm these - they seem horrendous?

1. 150 total losses in 1952
2. 68 lost after running out of fuel
3. 23 lost doing official low level aeros displays
4. 890 lost in total
5. 436 fatal accidents between 1944 and 1986.


Then there were Canberra assymetric practice losses to add to the overall picture. How much better things are today, on loss rates at least!
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Old 20th Nov 2017, 13:52
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I am even more surprised my parents let me join!
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Old 20th Nov 2017, 16:22
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Wander00

That thread about Meteor stats, which dates back to 2002, has some brilliant stories - albeit many are focused on flying accidents.

I spent some time today reading it. I see you and Danny posted on it earlier this year. Sadly I suspect many of those who were posting 15 years ago have passed on.
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Old 21st Nov 2017, 18:12
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From VE-Day to the end of 2010, there were approximately 9600 RAF aircraft and few civilian 'impressed' ones lost (Cat 5) to accidents or occasionally enemy or terrorist action.

As to fatal casualties, whether in the aircraft as crew and pax or outside, the figure is about 6000.

Of course the few big losses were those involving transport aircraft, including a York at Malta, contributed significant numbers to the tally. Maritime aircraft contributed up to a dozen or so casualties when they went down and there was the case of the two Shacks which are thought to have collided when timing changes reduced their deconfliction.

I think the heaviest casualty toll was the Herc off Pisa and closely followed by the Hastings from Abingdon.

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Old 4th Dec 2017, 03:05
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Shame about the drift; I thought there would have been more comments about The Bear. I thoroughly enjoyed my service life and admired some of the leaders who influenced my career, one of whom was The Bear. There were some who feared him, some who admired him but I think all respected him. He was an old-fashioned leader, who led from the front and would probably have been just what was needed in wartime. He never asked his troops to do anything that he wouldn't do, though he occasionally wasn't quite as sharp as the youngsters. I for one will remember him with great action.
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