Bomber Pilot A. G. “Tony” Dudgeon claims he has the “Luck of the Devil. ” Born in Egypt in 1916, he yearned to be a pilot, and at age 17, was accepted to the RAF College at Cranwell. Despite his preference for fighters, he was posted to 11 Squadron in India after flight training to fly a bomber, the Hawker Hart. The unit’s mission was “air control,” a concept of Lord Trenchard, which used aircraft to keep the peace between often warring Pathan tribes. It worked well, and Dudgeon became adept at flying in the rugged mountains of the Northwest Frontier District. When World War II began, Dudgeon was diverted from an assignment in England to North Africa.
Flying Bristol Blenheims against the Italians, his skill and “luck” served him well, earning him promotion and command of 55 Squadron. After more than a year of action and over 50 combat missions, Dudgeon needed a rest. He was sent to command a section of 4 Flying Training School at RAF Habbaniya in Iraq just as a coup d’etat placed a pro-German Iraqi government into power. To meet an Iraqi Army siege at the base, he quickly modified Oxford and other training aircraft to carry bombs–despite the disapproval of headquarters. In a little-known battle later recognized by Sir Winston Churchill, the instructors and students flew over 1,600 sorties and dropped over 100 tons of bombs to break the siege and then defeat the Iraqis.
In early 1942, he was finally given a rest in Egypt, flying captured German aircraft against RAF and US planes to devise new tactics. Later, he was posted to 211 Transport Group where he flew many types of aircraft and pioneered air routes across the Sahara. After 7 years, Dudgeon returned to England, but by 1944 was overseas again, this time behind German lines as a forward air controller supporting the Normandy Invasion. Despite some close calls, his “luck” held out and he avoided capture. After the war, Dudgeon held many command and staff positions around the world, including key posts at the Air Ministry in London.
He completed a distinguished career as Chief of Staff of the British military delegation to NATO. An author and lecturer, whose decorations include the Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Dudgeon has written three books. The Luck of the Devil tells of his adventures in India and Iraq, while Wings Over North Africa relates his experiences in World War II after 1942. A new book, The War That Never Was, looks at Britain’s 1941 fight with the Iraqis and their clandestine German support.