Distinguished RAF career for Sidmouth resident

Tributes to a long career for Group Captain Adrian Dart, who died last week

THE funeral of a man with a 35-year long distinguished career in the RAF, took place at Sidmouth Parish Church yesterday.

Group Captain Adrian Peter Dart, CBE, DSO, DFC and Bar, died after a long illness, aged 94.

Mr Dart’s military career began in 1936 when, aged 20, he joined the RAF in Bristol, where he was born in 1916.

When war started in 1939 he was called up and based in Cambridgeshire for basic training with the rank of Sergeant/Pilot.

After a spell in Derby flying Fouga Magister aircraft, he went to Hullavington to fly Ansons, then to Cottismore to fly Hampdens.

He stayed there for six months on training duties until early 1940 when he was posted to 44 Squadron, Waddington, and commissioned, flying Hampdens.

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By the end of 1941 he had taken part in 34 sorties and was awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross).

In 1942 he was posted to Lossiemouth as Squadron Leader and Flight Commander doing operational training on Wellingtons.

After a spell in Abingdon on Whitley long range bombers, he spent six months as Personal Staff Officer to Air Vice Marshal 91 Group operational training unit.

Family records show he became Flight Command Operational with 420 Squadron at Waddington before being moved to Thirsk where he was in virtual charge of an all-Canadian Squadron 419, formed from Squadron 224, which had suffered heavy losses and was deeply demoralised.

He was awarded the DSO (Distinguished Service Order) and posted to Pershore operational training unit as counter intelligence and promoted to Wing Commander.

He was given a permanent commission as Squadron Leader and travelled back to Hendon from war zones in 1945.

The following year saw him in Malta, then in 1949 he was posted to Northern Ireland, Aldegrove 204 Squadron coastal command. He also served in Norway as Wing Commander for a NATO appointment.

In 1961 he was promoted to Group Captain and posted to the Isle of Man as commander with its Operation Command Training Unit.

In 1969 he filled a NATO post in Virginia, USA and in 1971 retired.

His only son, Chris Dart, said although born in Bristol, his father always considered himself to be from Devon and his family came from the Ilfracombe area.

He married Joyce (Joy) Mary Butler in 1940 in Bristol and she died in 1980. In 1981 he married Gwynneth and they moved to live near Exeter.

“As they got older they realised the need for something more manageable and moved to Norton Garth, Station Road, Sidmouth,” said Chris.

In around 1995 they moved to Meadhurst Court and Gwynneth died unexpectedly after an operation in 2008. Mr Dart was latterly cared for at Sidmouth Nursing Home.