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Group Captain Arthur Montagu-Smith

Pilot, deputy lieutenant and councillor

Pilot, deputy lieutenant and councillor

Born: July 17, 1915; Died: January 18, 2014.

Arthur Montagu-Smith, who has died aged 98, was a distinguished and valiant airman whose life was defined by a sense of duty.

Already an experienced pilot by the outbreak of the Second World War - he had learned to fly in the open cockpits of biplanes clad in a bulky "teddy bear" fur suit - he led by example, his courage epitomising the best traits of the young men who took to the skies night after night in defence of their coast and country.

Just weeks into the war, he flew his squadron's first bombing attack on the German fleet, went on to command a flight of Defiants during the Battle of Britain and unleashed the first Wellington attack on a German sub, later being mentioned in despatches for his anti-submarine operations.

He trained and flew with Coastal Command aircrew, directed RAF training in the United States and in the aftermath of the war, fulfilled roles with a diplomatic element, including as aide de camp to the governor of Northern Ireland and air attaché in Budapest during the Cold War under the watch of the secret police - the latter a situation he revelled in, concocting imaginative tales each week for his landlady to pass to her handlers.

At home, in peacetime, he contributed enormously to life in Morayshire, working with local businesses as part of a development trust, serving the community as a councillor and representing the Queen for more than 20 years as deputy lieutenant of the county.

Monty, to all who knew him, was the son of an insurance broker and Lloyds name. Born in London's Blackheath less than a year into the First World War, he grew up in Croydon where he and his younger brother Alan were educated at Whitgift School.

He joined the RAF in 1935, training in silver, fabric-coated biplanes and flew in several of the legendary Hendon Air Pageants of the 1930s. He was on ceremonial duty at the Coronation of King George VI in 1937 but just two-and-a-half-years later the world was at war again and soon both brothers were actively engaged in operations.

Only Monty, then squadron adjutant of Bomber Command's 99 Squadron, would survive. Alan, who served with the British Expeditionary Force in France, was killed in action at Dunkirk a few months later.

Monty's squadron, which up until 1938 had been equipped with the Handley Page Heyford heavy bombers, had, by the outbreak of hostilities, moved on to Wellingtons which he then flew on one of the war's earliest bombing raids on German warships, in October 1939.

By November that year he was on special duties with the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down, engaged in experimental warfare research in North Africa.

He then spent a few months at Central Gunnery School before taking command of 264 Squadron of Defiant aircraft in the autumn of 1940, defending London during the second half of the Battle of Britain.

The next three years saw him serve with Coastal Command, initially as flight commander of 221 Squadron, based in Cornwall and Northern Ireland and engaged in demanding, long-range anti-submarine patrols. In May 1941 he carried out the first Wellington attack on a German submarine and in October that year was mentioned in despatches.

The following year, while directing aircrew training at Pitreavie, he met and married his wife Elizabeth, who was also serving in the RAF, before taking command of 248 Squadron of Beaufighters, again based in Cornwall, and targeting enemy aircraft, shipping and submarines. Under his leadership the squadron swept the Bay of Biscay and Western Approaches, dodging the enemy and destroying 25 of their planes.

"This was perhaps the career crowning point, leading a group of impossibly rumbustious Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders intent on living permanently at full throttle in the face of daily stress and danger," said his son David.

In August 1943 he resumed aircrew training and was deputy director of RAF training for the US in Washington in 1944. By the summer of the following year, with the war in Europe over and still aged just 30, he was posted as commander of a wing of reconnaissance Mosquito squadrons. Based at Coulommiers east of Paris, their role was to photograph the whole of the northern European coastline.

From the late 1940s he held a series of posts with a diplomatic edge, among them his 18 months as aide de camp to the governor of Northern Ireland and a period as the first British air attaché, following India's independence, to the British High Commission in New Delhi. During the Korean War he was air adviser to the Military Staff Committee of the United Nations, in New York.

He brought his RAF career to a close with appointments as assistant station commander at RAF Acklington, followed by a post at HQ 22 Group and finally as HM Air Attache in Budapest, retiring to Morayshire, his wife's home county, in 1961.

There he embarked on a new career with the Scottish Country Industries Development Trust, working for 18 years with small industries and craftsmen in rural areas, which took him all over the north-east and helped to foster his love of Scotland.

His interests in the community were as wide-ranging as his RAF duties and encompassed a similar sense of public service: deputy lieutenant of Morayshire from 1970-91, he was also an Elgin District councillor; a member of Moray Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Association; a director of Elgin and Lossiemouth Harbour Company and chair of Elgin and Lossiemouth Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Moray Association of Youth Clubs.

Like most of his generation, the war was a defining element of his life and the RAF remained a constant thread, a fact eloquently illustrated when, while whizzing along an empty country road under a moonlit sky, he insisted on switching off the vehicle's headlights to demonstrate the exhilarating art of flying by the light of a bomber's moon.

Pre-deceased in 2005 by his wife, to whom he was devoted for 63 years, he is survived by their daughter Davina and son David, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

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