207 SQUADRON ROYAL AIR FORCE HISTORY
Introduction by AVM David Dick CB CBE AFC MA FRAeS RAF(Retd)
Pilot, OC 207 Squadron 5/63-10/64, late President 207 Squadron RAF Association
207 Squadron was privileged indeed to have had Flying Officer David Balme posted in as a new Lancaster Captain on 28th March 1943, for David Mowbray Balme was a truly outstanding man.
Not only did he possess great courage and integrity, but he was also very skilled as a pilot and an exceptional aircraft Captain. He possessed something rare and precious - a first class intellect, which was also backed up by remarkably diverse talents. But on top of that he was an essentially practical man, well endowed with abundant common-sense, and who lived in and enjoyed what most of us would call "the real world".
His nine and a half months with 207 Squadron - he was posted to Air Ministry on 10th January 1944 - may appear brief when viewed from 47 years later, especially to those who did not serve in Bomber Command during World War II. But in those dark days nine months was a very long time, and David and his crew completed 31 operational sorties. David's tour with 207 Squadron was an epic in other ways too.
He arrived as a Flying Officer, and departed as a Squadron Leader, having been 'A' Flight Commander since the previous August; and when he left he wore the ribbons of the DSO and the DFC, both of which were earned by specific outstanding feats, some of which are related in this tribute.
There are tributes from seven men who had known David well at various times of his adult life. Understandably in a Squadron Association publication five are from former aircrew, two of whom were in his own crews.
We are also most fortunate to have tributes from two of David's academic colleagues: Professor John Fage (who was also a pilot in the RAF during the war), whom David recruited to the to the staff of the University College of the Gold Coast, and who got to know him well there, and Professor H MacL Currie, who was a colleague from David's days at Queen Mary College, University of London [Editor - Allan Gotthelf's text for the Guardian obituary of David was added in 2002]. I believe that these latter tributes give those of us whose knowledge of David came only from his Squadron days a valued glimpse into David's other talents and achievements in what I would suspect he would regard as his principal life's work.
Last of all I have included what I think must be a rare document - a piece which David himself wrote for us, re-telling vividly and pungently of just one of his Lancaster operational sorties; I wish that I had persuaded him to tell us about more of them.