Harold Brownlow Martin

Air Marshal Sir Harold Brownlow Morgan "Micky" Martin, KCB, DSO & Bar, DFC & Two Bars, AFC (27 February 1918 – 3 November 1988) was an Australian bomber pilot and senior commander in the Royal Air Force (RAF). He took part in Operation Chastise, the RAF's "Dambusters" raid in 1943, and was described by journalist Sir Max Hastings as "one of the three great bomber pilots of the war".[1] He rose to become a senior officer in the RAF, commanding RAF Germany and later serving as Air Member for Personnel, a member of the Air Council, the RAF's controlling body.

Harold Brownlow Morgan Martin
Flight Lieutenant Micky Martin, June 1943
Born(1918-02-27)27 February 1918
Edgecliff, Australia
Died3 November 1988(1988-11-03) (aged 70)
London, England
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchRoyal Air Force
Years of service1940–1974
RankAir Marshal
UnitNo. 455 Squadron RAAF (1941–42)
No. 50 Squadron RAF (1942)
No. 515 Squadron RAF (1944)
Commands heldAir Member for Personnel (1973–74)
Royal Air Force Germany (1970–73)
No. 38 Group RAF (1967–70)
RAF Nicosia (c.1960–62)
No. 617 Squadron RAF (1943)
Battles/warsSecond World War
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order & Bar
Distinguished Flying Cross & Two Bars
Air Force Cross
Other workAdvisor, Hawker Siddeley

Early life

Born on 27 February 1918 in Edgecliff, New South Wales, Martin left Australia for the United Kingdom in 1939. He intended to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh, but instead volunteered to join the Royal Air Force (RAF) on 28 August 1940.[2]

Military career

Second World War

Martin commenced his operational career with No. 455 Squadron RAAF in October 1941, flying the Handley Page Hampden.[3] In February 1942, he captained the first all-Australian crewed bombing sortie against Germany. Martin soon acquired a reputation for low-level flying in order to avoid anti-aircraft fire and fighters. After 13 operations, he and his crew joined No. 50 Squadron RAF. Flying Hampdens, Avro Manchesters, and finally Avro Lancasters, they completed their tour in October 1942, Martin being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).

Martin's penchant for low flying contributed to his selection in March 1943 for assignment to the newly formed No. 617 Squadron under Wing Commander Guy Gibson.[3] Martin took part in the "Dambusters" raid on the night of 16/17 May 1943.[3] He piloted the Lancaster bomber AJ-P "Popsie" (officially known as AJ-P "Peter") in the first formation, which was assigned to attack the Möhne Dam in Western Germany. Martin's plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire during the attack, but he successfully accomplished the bombing run and returned. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his actions.

Following Gibson's retirement from operations and the immediate loss in action of his successor, Squadron Leader George Holden, Martin assumed temporary command of No. 617 Squadron.[3] Later, under the command of Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire, Martin participated in various pin-point attacks on targets in France, Italy and Germany, often employing the new 12,000 lb (5,443 kg) Tallboy bomb as seen in Operation Garlic. In February 1944, during an attack on the Anthéor railway Viaduct in the French Riviera, Martin's Lancaster was hit by flak, knocking out the two port engines and killing the bomb aimer Bob Hay, while wounding another crew member. Martin could not make the return trip to England, and flew on south toward an RAF base at Corsica before diverting further to the United States Army Air Forces base at Sardinia. The mission was Martin's 49th sortie flying a heavy bomber.

When Martin returned to England he was transferred out of No. 617 Squadron and placed in No. 100 Group's No. 515 Squadron, flying the de Havilland Mosquito on serrate night fighter missions in support of Bomber Command aircraft.[3] By late 1944, Martin had flown another 34 operations, where he claimed two aircraft shot down, and three destroyed (and one damaged) on the ground.[4]


After the war, Martin attended a course at the RAF Staff College in Haifa and in 1945 joined the headquarters staff of No. 100 Group.[3] He broke the speed record for flying from London to Cape Town, completing the 6,717 mile journey in a time of 21 hours, 31 minutes in a Mosquito,[5] for which he won the Oswald Watt Gold Medal and the Britannia Trophy. In 1947 he flew the meteorological Mosquito for the first transatlantic jet crossing in support of No. 54 Squadron's de Havilland Vampires.[6]

Martin was appointed to a succession of staff jobs: Air Attache, Tel Aviv in 1952; Operation Plans Division in 1955; and Group Captain — Electronic Warfare, HQ Signals Command in 1959, before becoming Aide-de-camp to the Queen in 1964.[3] He then served for three years from 1967 to 1970 as Air Officer Commanding No. 38 Group.[3] In 1970 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief RAF Germany and finally, in 1973, Air Member for Personnel.[3]

Later life

After retiring from the RAF on 31 October 1974, Martin worked for aircraft manufacturer Hawker Siddeley as an advisor.[3] Sir Harold Martin died at his home in London on 3 November 1988,[7] and is buried at Gunnersbury Cemetery.


  1. O'Donnell, Conal: WW2 People's War, British Broadcasting Corporation.
  2. Nelson, Hank (2006). Chased by the Sun: The Australians in Bomber Command in World War II. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-74114-847-2.
  3. Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation – Air Marshal Sir Harold Martin
  4. Shore, Christopher (2004). Those Other Eagles, p. 388
  5. http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1947/1947%20-%200703.html
  6. Flight 1948
  7. Sir Harold Martin, Pilot, 70, The New York Times, 6 November 1988.

Further reading

  • Bowyer, Chaz (1983). Bomber Barons. Kimber & Co.
Military offices
Preceded by
George Holden
Officer Commanding No. 617 Squadron

September – November 1943
Succeeded by
Leonard Cheshire
Preceded by
Peter Fletcher
Air Officer Commanding No. 38 Group
Succeeded by
Denis Crowley-Milling
Preceded by
Christopher Foxley-Norris
Commander-in-Chief RAF Germany
Also Commander of the Second Tactical Air Force

Succeeded by
Nigel Maynard
Preceded by
Sir Lewis Hodges
Air Member for Personnel
Succeeded by
Sir Neil Cameron
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