Lives Remembered: Cecil Warwick
Friday 10 April 2009
Joining the RAF in January 1939, Warwick started as a flight rigger before being trained as a fitter IIA on 254 Squadron, where he worked on the Beaufighters, which were to form the crucial part of Coastal Command's first "Strike Wing".
He was graded navigator in 1943 after aircrew training (flying Tiger Moths at Desford) and dispatched on the SS Tegelberg to South Africa, where his convoy was attacked by Ju88 torpedo bombers. An RAF corporal standing near to Warwick was killed by cannon fire. The ship behind was sunk. Finally arriving in Durban harbour, they were greeted by Perla Gibson, the legendary Lady in White, singing "There'll Always Be An England" through her trademark megaphone.
By the end of 1944, after promotion to flying officer in 406 Squadron, his operational flying began in earnest – but, in only his fourth low-level patrol as nav/rad, his Mosquito was shot down over Flensburg airfield, crash- landing and bursting into flames. Warwick and crew survived and spent two days avoiding capture as they headed for the Danish border. They were caught by sentries a few miles from safety. "One of the guards needed to relieve himself in the woods, so he asked me to hold his rifle while his mate kept me covered!"
He rejoined the RAF six months after being demobbed and spent over three years at Leeming: and it was there that he earned his MBE as senior nav/rad instructor working on such projects as the Airborne-Interception radar of the Mk X Wellington and on the forerunner to AWACS, the aircraft-based early warning system.
A distinguished RAF career cont-inued with numerous postings, including at the Central Fighter Establishment at West Raynham, where he was involved in the trials of the Meteor NF11 and Vampire NF10 jets (night fighters). In the 1960s, now a Squad-ron Leader, he spent a year in Aden before returning to HQFC (Fighter Command headquarters) as their last air defence controller before HQFC merged into Strike Command. Having been posted to Strike Command Headquarters in High Wycombe, with responsibility for planning NATO and Command synthetic exercises, he left the RAF in 1973 to work for the MOD, before retiring in 1981.
Always modest about his own contribution during the war, Warwick could also be compassionate in his appraisal of the enemy – admitting a liking for the Waffen SS Captain who kept him prisoner. "He asked me a few questions in perfect English and then, when I said I was hungry, reached forward and gave me his sandwiches!"
Cecil Warwick – known as "Wimpy" because the Vickers Warwick was similar to the Wellington Wimpy, named after Popeye's friend – was a lifelong steam railway enthusiast. A devoted husband, he died on 3 April and is survived by his wife, Doris.
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