Richard (“Batchy”) and David Atcherley

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Twins David and Richard Atcherley were born on 12 Jan 1904 at York, sons of Major-General Sir Llewellyn William Atcherley, C.M.G., C.V.O. and his wife Eleanor Frances (Micklethwait), and grandsons of Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Topping Atcherley.

Like their father before them, David and Richard were educated at Oundle School in Northamptonshire. The photograph above shows them (David back right, Richard back centre) as part of a School House Fives team in 1921, when the twins would have been aged 17. They left Oundle later that same year, and jobs were were found for them first with Head & Wrightson (David) and the Blackburn Aeroplane Company (Richard), then with tobacco firm Tetleys (David based at Leeds and Richard at Huddersfield). Both, however, wanted to join the RAF and applied to do so without telling their parents. In 1922 Richard was admitted to the RAF College at Cranwell, but David failed his medical and instead entered Sandhurst. (Picture credit: Used with the kind permission of Oundle School.)

Air Marshal Sir Richard Llewellyn Roger Atcherley, KBE, CB, AFC and Bar [], was widely known as “Batchy” but his nickname within the Atcherley family was “Snick.” After winning the King’s Cup Air Race in 1929 he broke the world air speed record, flying at a speed of 332.63 miles per hour, during that year’s Schneider Cup race. He is pictured standing to the right of his Schneider Cup team mates in the photograph above, while the image below shows him at Calshot on 30 Aug 1930 where he joined Italian pilots watching tests and trials for that year’s Schneider race. (Picture credits. Above: Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons. Below: Puttnam/Stringer/Getty Images, editorial image # 3417116.)

Batchy went on to give demonstrations of ‘crazy flying’ at the National Air Races in America in the early 1930s, making headlines in newspapers around the world. The photo above (which I have cropped below) the shows him in Cleveland in 1932, sitting to the left of Jean Assolant (France), Lieutenant A Placidio (Portugal) and Clarence Young (Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics, USA).

Bibliothèque Nationale de France have a copy of this photo – see europeana – which is shown as being in the public domain. The images above are from my own copy of the photo. The photograph below is from the same picture agency and the same time period, and I believe it also to be in the public domain. It shows “Flight Lieutenant Richard L. R. Atcherley”, en route to Cleveland to take part in the National Air Races once again, on his arrival at New York City aboard the S. S. Olympic on 28 August 1934.

Resuming more serious RAF duties, Batchy experimented with in-flight refuelling. In 1936, with Herbert Rowley, he went to Germany to learn what he could about the Luftwaffe, and reported back to the UK Government recommending a British strike force of Wellingtons and Blenheims, supported by Spitfires and Hurricanes (see Richard Atcherley in pre-WW2 Germany). During World War II Batchy developed the Drem lighting system for airfields to guide pilots safely home, and his actions in Norway earned him the country’s highest gallantry decoration, the War Cross. He was also, in 1942, shot down in a Spitfire. Towards the end of the war, at Batchy’s suggestion, a Central Fighter Establishment was formed and he became its first Commandant. Batchy went on to command the fledgeling Pakistan Air Force and it was during his time there that he visited Australia, and also New Zealand (where he is pictured above at Hobsonville in 1949). The photo below Shows Batchy talking to one of 68 Pakistani apprentices during an inspection at RAF Station Halton, Buckinghamshire on 3 April 1950. And the photo below that depicts him at his old school, Oundle, being instructed by Michael Mills in the use of the school’s glider. In the years leading up to the outbreak of World War II, Batchy had been instrumental in creating RAF Sections within the Officers’ Training Corps already established in public and secondary schools in Britain. He personally recruited masters from public schools into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve to oversee RAF training in the schools. The full list of Richard “Batchy” Atcherley’s achievements and exploits is enormous. (Photo credits. Above: Air Vice Marshal Richard Atcherley, chief of Royal Pakistan Air Force and officers at Hobsonville. Whites Aviation Ltd: Photographs. Ref: WA-23311-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. Below: Warburton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images, editorial image # 3429915. Beneath: Used with the kind permission of Oundle School.)

Air Vice Marshal David Francis William Atcherley, CB, CBE, DSO, DFC [] started his military career in the Army but managed to get a secondment to the RAF and then a permanent transfer. David Atcherley’s World War Two – Part 1 begins my account of his wartime exploits. It was during that conflict that David was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The citation for this, published in the London Gazette, reads:

“Wing Commander David Francis William ATCHERLEY (05168), No.25 Squadron. This officer has carried out a large amount of operational flying at night, sometimes under adverse weather conditions. The efficiency of his squadron and the success it has had is due to Wing Commander Atcherley’s drive, energy and leadership. He has destroyed three enemy aircraft at night.”

The image above is from a painting by Eric Kennington. One of over 100 portraits of RAF personnel produced by Eric for the Ministry of Information, the Crown Copyright that applied to the picture has expired as it was published commercially more than 50 years ago in Flight, 4 Sep 1941 (from the fabulous Flightglobal Archive). The photograph below, used under the Imperial War Museum Non-Commercial Licence, shows David (far left) with Group Captain P G Wykeham-Barnes, Wing Commander H P Shallard and AVM Basil Embry. (Image © IWM (CL 2739).)

David Atcherley was lost on 7 June 1952 on a flight from Fayid in Egypt to Nicosia, in circumstances which remain a mystery to this day (see The disappearance of David Atcherley).

View Richard Atcherley’s page in the Atcherley Family Tree
View David Atcherley’s page in the Atcherley Family Tree