Bomber pilot, Loch Ness Monster hunter and Sean Connery's stunt double;
Born: April 26 1916; Died September 1 2013.
WING Commander Kenneth Wallis, who has died aged 97, was best known for being Sean Connery's stunt double in You Only Live Twice although he was also part of a research team that searched for the Loch Ness Monster and he saw distinguished service in the Second World War. He flew 28 missions with Bomber Command over Germany - an amazing feet of flying endurance especially as he was only partially sighted.
Kenneth Horatio Wallis, whose father ran a cycle shop in Ely in Cambridgeshire, was educated at King's School. He inherited a love of flying and mechanics from his father and despite his poor sight twice applied to join the RAF. He was turned down but obtained a flying licence in 1936.
When war broke out, he bluffed his way through the medical and joined Bomber Command in 1941. He flew Wellingtons with No 103 Squadron, primarily attacking Germany's industrial heartland of the Ruhr.
His wartime experiences were heroic and dramatic. He survived mid-air explosions, crash landings, a bailing out and many mid-flight crises. Not surprisingly, he earned the nickname of Crasher throughout the RAF.
On one occasion, he stuttered home with 115 gun shots in his Wellington while on another his wing was flapping so limply that landing was hazardous in the extreme. "I went through a lot of aircraft," he once confessed. He completed his war service in Italy.
From 1956, he spent two years on a posting to US Strategic Air Command and flew B-36s laden with nuclear bombs over the North Pole. He left the RAF in 1964 with the rank of wing commander and concentrated on autogyros which had become his passion. It was a simple device open to the elements and powered by rotary motors. It was driven by twin propellers one above and one behind.
He was keen to develop the autogyro commercially and was convinced it could aid military reconnaissance. The autogyro did assist the police in searches over moor lands and looking for the graves of murder victims but its commercial uses proved limited.
In 1966, the designer Ken Adam, was doing research into locations for You Only Live Twice when he heard a radio interview with Wallis about autogyros. The two met and Adam asked if Wallis would like to take on helicopters. His eyes lit up, "you mean the big boys? Give me a chance" he replied with typical enthusiasm.In fact, as the film developed Wallis was given a starring role, flying his own "Little Nellie" and became a central figure in the thrilling aerial sequence. It lasted seven minutes on screen and is a popular sequence with Bond fans.
In fact he had never seen a Bond film and only briefly met Connery. In the film, audiences see Connery unpack 'Little Nellie' from a suitcase before flying off to fight the enemy's high-powered helicopters. To add to the danger he flew around an active volcano.
Recently he admitted: "Sean Connery had to sit in the autogyro and put on the helmet, but then got out and it was me who did the first take-off.
"I had to do 81 flights and was in the air for more than 44 hours. It was hard work but fun when it was finished. The funny thing is I don't even get a mention in the credits." Worse was the instruction from the film's producer Cubby Broccoli. "Cubby told me to shave off my handlebar moustache so I could double for Sean Connery. That was a shock."
Wg Cdr Wallis played a significant role in two high-profile investigations. Firstly, he joined a research team searching for the Loch Ness Monster in 1970. Wallis had adapted the camera equipment on board his autogyro so that photographs could be taken by a 35mm camera. As he patrolled the loch, he took a stunning series of photographs. He also joined the hunt for Lord Lucan, who had shot the family nanny in Belgravia in 1974. Amid much talk of a conspiracy, Lucan then disappeared. Wg Cdr Wallis took extensive aerial footage for a TV documentary Into the Wind of the Sussex Downs, which suggested Lucan may have committed suicide.
He was awarded the MBE in 1996 and, two months ago, his Bomber Command gold clasp. He was a man blessed with much infectious enthusiasm and reflected the heroics of Biggles. In 1942 he married Peggy Stapley, who predeceased him. They had a son and two daughters.
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