One of Great Britain’s leading aces, William Dennis David, downed 20 enemy aircraft during the Battles of France and Britain. Commissioned in the Royal Air Force in 1938, the 19-year-old Welshman earned his wings in August. His first post was to Hurricanes with 87 Squadron. As part of the British Expeditionary Force, his Squadron deployed to France in September 1939. On 10 May 1940, after many weeks of patrol activity, David gained his first aerial victory when he downed a Do-17 bomber and shared credit for an He-111 bomber.
Although the RAF was often outnumbered 10 to 1 during the German blitzkrieg into France, David destroyed at least 14 German aircraft before 87 Squadron withdrew to England on 30 May. During the Battle of Britain, David continued to gain victories, and on 19 October 1940, he downed a Ju-88 bomber for the last of his 20 victories. Following this victory, he was posted to 152 Squadron as a flight commander flying Supermarine Spitfires. During 1941-1943, David flew Hurricanes with operational flying training units, and rose to the rank of Wing Commander. In July 1943, he was posted to command 89 Squadron, a Beaufighter night-fighter unit.
Based in the Western Desert, his squadron flew intercept and intruder missions. Following action in the Middle East and Mediterranean, 89 Squadron moved to Ceylon in 1944. In the Far East, he participated in the liberation of Burma as Air Corps Liaison Officer to General Sir A.F.P. Christison of the XV Indian Corps. In January 1945, while flying a light liaison aircraft over the key island of Akyab on the Arakan coast, he discovered the Japanese had departed. David landed to confirm his observation and thus earned the title “The RAF officer who captured Akyab.” Following the war, he was assigned to the Middle East.
In 1949, he took command of 324 Wing, flying Vampires–the first jets to operate in the Middle East. In 1955, he was selected as Honorary Aide to Viscount Trenchard until the “Father of the RAF” died in 1956. David was then appointed as Her Majesty’s Air Attaché in Budapest. While behind the Iron Curtain, he witnessed many of the atrocities committed during the Hungarian uprising. More importantly, he assisted over 400 people to escape. For his actions, Grand Duke Arpad of Habsburg, the exiled hereditary Royal Ruler of Hungary, in 1981 inducted David into the Knightly Order of Vitez–only the eighth non-Hungarian to be honored. Group Captain David retired from the RAF in 1967 and was very active with Battle of Britain Veterans’ activities, RAF, and Free Hungarian charities. William Dennis David was selected as an Eagle by Air Command and Staff College Gathering of Eagles in 1987 and 1990, respectively.