Tony Iveson: Second World War pilot who served in the Battle of Britain in a Spitfire and helped sink the 'Tirpitz' in a Lancaster

 

Tony Iveson flew Spitfires in the Battle of Britain and later the Lancaster Bomber, in which he was part of the group which sank Hitler's flagship, the Tirpitz. Serving as a flying instructor for two years after the Battle of Britain, he then flew many missions over Germany as a member of the 617 Squadron – the "Dambusters". His love affair with the Lancaster continued for the rest of his life and he flew the last remaining Lancaster at the age of 89. He then wrote Lancaster – the Biography (2008) with Brian Milton in 2009. But nothing in his life became him more than the memorial for which he campaigned tirelessly in his final years for his comrades in Bomber Command, around 55,500 of whom gave their lives to keep Hitler from these shores.

Born in Yorkshire, Thomas Clifford Iveson had dreamed of flying from his early teens and joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in September 1938. During the Battle of Britain he was a sergeant pilot on Spitfire fighters with 616 Squadron and survived ditching his Spitfire into the sea on 16 September 1940. He was then sent to Rhodesia to train young pilots.

After training in Lancasters he joined 617 Squadron in July 1944 and became a squadron leader with Bomber Command in October of that year. His achievements included keeping his severely damaged bomber airborne in January 1945 and landing it in Shetland after half the crew had bailed out, for which he was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross in March 1945.

But the highlight was the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz, which Churchill had made his priority, in the Norwegian fjords. At the 2012 Oldie Soho Literary Festival he told a riveted audience about the events which culminated, after a few attempts had been aborted because of bad weather, on 12 November 1944. "The day dawned bright and clear", he said. "We realised the conditions were perfect for what we needed to do. We also realised that they were equally perfect for the German fighters who would be scrambled to pursue us."

The Tirpitz was not so much sunk – the water was not deep enough – as overturned. The bombs created a hole in the hull through which several German sailors were able to escape with their lives. Iveson was relieved at that and remained in touch with some of the survivors.

Immediately after the war Iveson was seconded to BOAC, flying converted bombers to the Far East. He left the RAF the following year, but later joined a field squadron of the RAF Regiment in the RAAF and commanded a light anti–aircraft squadron before the force was disbanded in 1957.

On civvy street Iveson had a long career in television and public relations. He was involved in the production of early programmes for Granada, and undertook PR work for some of the country's leading companies, including Littlewood's Pools. It was Iveson who handled the publicity in 1961 when Viv Nicholson won £152,319 (nearly £3 million in today's money) and promised to "spend, spend, spend"; Iveson was unable to prevent her from doing just that and spending the lot in less than five years.

He was the perfect gentleman in both conduct and appearance, and it was not easy to upset him. But one thing was guaranteed to, although he never raised his voice. At the Oldie night in Soho there was a member of the audience who had clearly taken a front row seat to specifically in order to protest about the bombing of places like Dresden, and complain that the bombing of dams, which caused widespread flooding, should not have happened.

Iveson had no time for what he called "self-appointed armchair historians" who criticised operations in which he saw close friends die. "Total war – and that is what we were forced into – is a brutal business, a total breakdown of civilisation, where you fight terror with terror or die," he once told me. "After the Battle of Britain and the Blitz, in which 43,000 civilians were killed and many more injured, Bomber Command began taking the air war from over the rooftops of London and other British cities into the skies over Germany.

"It was the only British force which could inflict war on the enemy heartland ... between Dunkirk and Normandy and keep it there until the end in 1945. By driving the enemy air force on to the defensive, by forcing him to build fighters instead of bombers, London and other cities were spared from further devastation. The Luftwaffe, equipped with bombers, would have rendered the South Coast preparation areas untenable, leading to the invasion of Europe being postponed or abandoned."

This was the spirit which made him go into battle in his nineties for what was to be his final triumph: to see the completion of the Bomber Command Memorial opposite the RAF Club at Hyde Park corner. The bravest of the brave received neither a campaign medal nor a knighthood, but were it not for Tony Iveson and Bomber Command I might not be here to be writing this, and I am very proud to have known him.

Thomas Clifford Iveson, RAF pilot and flying instructor: born Yorkshire 11 September 1919; married 1941 Christine Green (marriage dissolved; three daughters, and one son deceased), married secondly (died 1995); partner to Mary Kimpton; died 5 November 2013.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape