“Air Marshal Sir Patrick Dunn had an illustrious record flying Gladiator bi-planes and Hurricanes in the Western Desert during the Second World War.
On August 8 1940, Squadron Leader “Paddy” Dunn led an offensive patrol of 14 Gladiators of No 80 Squadron against Italian CR 42s that had been operating in the vicinity of El Gobi. The patrol was a trap: the Italians were unused to encountering significant formations of the RAF. Dunn planned to lure them into attacking three aircraft flying at 8,000 ft, while the other Gladiators lurked above in formations stacked up to 14,000 ft; he was one of the “bait”.
Near Bir El Gobi, the Gladiators came across a large number of CR 42s and Ro 37s flying below them. As the Italians were engaged with the lower formation, the higher Gladiators swooped down from the sun, taking them by surprise. In five minutes, 10 enemy aircraft were claimed destroyed with seven “probables”. Dunn himself had one confirmed and one “probable”.
Within a fortnight, he left to form No 274, the first Hurricane squadron to see action in the Western Desert. That December there were several fierce engagements with the Italians. On December 9, Dunn was involved in two dogfights near Bir Zigdin el-Hamra and Sidi el Barrani. In the first, the RAF claimed three SM 79s destroyed and two damaged, with Dunn having a share in one.
The second was a huge aerial battle, involving at least 19 Italian aircraft and two squadrons of Hurricanes, No 33 and No 274. With some optimism, the Italians claimed that they had shot down 18 Hurricanes at a cost of 12 of their own aircraft though, in fact, RAF casualties seem to have been limited to two. Dunn claimed one aircraft destroyed and two “probables”.
On December 14, Dunn led an attack on an Italian fighter escort over Sidi Aziez, and claimed two destroyed. His own aircraft was hit and he made a forced landing from which he emerged unscathed. The following January he added another enemy aircraft to his tally and, in addition, surprised two on the ground at Gazala. He was subsequently awarded a DFC, and posted to command Amriya airfield.
Under Dunn’s command, No 80 and No 274 accounted for 92 enemy aircraft destroyed. His own tally was six, with a share in three more and a number of “probables.”
Patrick Hunter Dunn was born at Glasgow on December 31 1912. He was educated at Loretto and Glasgow University before joining the RAF on a short service commission in 1933. After training in Scotland he attended the flying-boat and general reconnaissance course at Calshot and was posted to No 201. He went to the Central Flying School, then joined No 500 (County of Kent) before returning to the CFS as a senior instructor, with a keen interest in aerobatics.
In 1939 Dunn was posted to HQ Middle East, and the next year took command of No 80. Promoted wing commander in 1941, he took charge of No 71, a training unit based first at Ismalia and then in Khartoum. He was later chief flying instructor.
After staff appointments in the Middle East, Dunn was sent home via West Africa for a brief posting with No 204, flying Sunderlands, then to London for a staff position with Air Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard, Chief of the Air Staff.
Itching to fly again, Dunn started training for Mosquito “Pathfinder” Operations, but was withdrawn because of his staff commitments. After a stint at Fighter Command he was promoted group captain and placed in charge of anti-V2 operations at 12 Group. He ended the war in command of Coltishall fighter sector.
Dunn had a lively post-war career, alternating staff appointments with instructing and overseas postings. In 1950 he was appointed CBE for his “imaginative” and “praiseworthy” role co-ordinating anti-terrorist operations in Malaya. By 1956 he was in charge of the Flying College at Manby. Two years later he went to the Air Ministry as deputy air secretary. Posted to Bomber Command, where he was AOC 1 Group, Dunn took a refresher course, flying Vulcans. His last post was as C-in-C, Flying Training.
Dunn was appointed CB in 1956 and KBE in 1965. In retirement, he was active in industry as a director of British Steel, as deputy chairman of the ill-fated British Eagle Airline and chairman of its successor, Eagle Aircraft Services. He was also director of the Gloucester, Coventry, Cricklewood and Kingston Trading Estates.
A well-informed correspondent of newspapers, he drew national headlines in 2003 when ambulancemen were unable to pick him up without the correct “lifting cushion” after he fell over at his home at Cookham Dean. He was left on the floor for two hours until his carer chanced to pass by his house and intervened.
Patrick Dunn married, in 1939, Diana Ledward-Smith; they had two daughters.” (Obituary courtesy of the Daily Telegraph)