Obituary / Gp Capt F. C. Richardson

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The Independent Online
F. C. Richardson made a unique and outstanding contribution to RAF navigation, for in 1940-41 - working in the Air Ministry while the Battle of Britain was at its height - he wrote the Manual of Air Navigation (known in the Service as AP [Air Publication] 1234), a classic account of basic principles with Alice in Wonderland quotations at the head of each chapter.

Published by HMSO in 1941, it was circulated to all flying training schools in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth Air Training Scheme for many years afterwards, and was translated into many languages - including German (though the Luftwaffe captain given the task found the English of Lewis Carroll beyond him).

"Dickie" Richardson's pre-war career had well prepared him for this task. He had joined the RAF in 1933 on a short- service commission and was trained in Egypt, at No 4 Flying Training School, Abu Sueir, where he passed out with an "Exceptional" rating as a pilot. He was then posted to the prestigious No 216 bomber/ transport squadron, at Heliopolis near Cairo.

Operations to Kenya and West Africa, and across the deserts of Iraq (vividly described in a recently completed but as yet unpublished autobiography), gave him his first practical experience in air navigation; and this was consolidated when in 1937-38 he took the specialist course at the School of Air Navigation at Manston. His success there, and the resultant "N" after his name in the Air Force List, led to his posting to the Air Ministry to write the Manual of Air Navigation.

Richardson then did an operational tour, commanding a Whitley squadron, No 502, at St Eval, Cornwall, in 1942-43 during the Battle of the Atlantic. By now a Wing Commander, he was appointed Chief Navigation Officer at Coastal Command HQ.

His operational experiences led him to influence the Air Staff to make two changes in the role and status of navigators: limiting their airborne duty to 10 hours (unless a second navigation was being carried) and making it possible for them to become captains of aircraft.

In post-war years he helped to set up the Empire Navigation School (famous for its trans- polar and world circumnavigation flights by the Lancaster Aries) at Shawbury, in Shropshire, becoming Deputy Commandant before his retirement from the RAF in 1958.

Humphrey Wynn

Frederick Charles Richardson, air force officer: born Streatham, London 24 January 1912; married 1937 Mary Greaves (one son, one daughter, and one son deceased); died Pinner, Middlesex 12 October 1995.