This book provides a fascinating insight into the remarkable life of Leslie Robert Colquhoun, whose long career in aviation involved three separate chapters: as an ace photo reconnaissance pilot during World War II; as a test pilot for world-famous aircraft manufacturers Vickers/Supermarine in the postwar years; and as a pioneer pilot and proponent of the British-invented hovercraft in the 1960s and 70s. Told here for the first time, Leslie’s remarkable story will be an inspiration to all who read it.
His wartime exploits alone are sufficient to merit book all to themselves. In 1942 Les was one of just two pilots flying photo-reconnaissance missions from the besieged island of Malta in the Mediterranean. Flying alone in an unarmed Spitfire he made regular sorties over enemy-occupied territory to photograph important aerodromes, harbours and other installations, his only defence being his high operating altitude, the speed of his aircraft and his own piloting skills. The information he gathered was vital to the commanders of the war in the Mediterranean and North Africa. Throughout the entire period Malta was enduring the worst bombardment of any location during World War II, so conditions back at his home base were decidedly less than comfortable. In spite of these hardships Leslie kept up an almost daily vigil, which was ultimately rewarded with a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in recognition of his important contribution to the ultimate success of the Allied forces in the Mediterranean theatre of war.
In the postwar years Leslie was a test pilot for Vickers/Supermarine during the pioneering age of jet-powered flight and among the aircraft he tested were the Attacker and Scimitar naval fighters.
In the late 1950s Vickers began to develop the hovercraft and Leslie became closely involved with this project, piloting the prototype versions and eventually becoming managing director of HoverLloyd, the first passenger hovercraft service in the world.
All this and more is covered within the pages of this book, which is illustrated with over 150 photographs and diagrams.