Arnold Edgar Walker [Heath 1929–1932]

Arnold Edgar ‘Blondie’ Walker was born on , the son and youngest child of Edgar Walker and Sarah Elizabeth [née Hoyle] of 14 Warley Edge, Warley. With his father, Joseph, Edgar had established Joseph Walker & Son, stone masons and builders.

‘Blondie’ attended Heath Grammar School, leaving at 15 to join the family business, studying part-time at the Technical College for his building exam, and taking the business over three years later when his father died of septicæmia from a burst appendix. He made the family business a private limited company in 1936 and it continued trading until the mid 1990s.

Perhaps inspired by his father, who had served with the Royal Engineers, rising to the rank of acting Sergeant in WWI, ‘Blondie’ chose to enlist in 1939 rather than taking advantage of being in a ‘reserved’ occupation.

He volunteered for the RAF and undertook pilot training in Canada. On completion of his training, he was commissioned into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Service No 115919) as a pilot officer on probation on . When he returned to the UK and converted to the Hurricane, he was then sent to the Middle East, sailing to Freetown in Sierra Leone before flying across the desert to Khartoum and on to Port Said where he was mostly protecting convoys.

In August 1942, he joined No. 94 Squadron, which soon received four Hawker Hurricanes donated by Lady MacRobert, whose three sons had died while serving in the RAF. He was allocated ‘Sir Roderic,’ which he flew during the North African campaign during which the unit gained an outstanding reputation. He was promoted war substantive flying officer on 1 October 1942.

In April 1943 engine failure in his Hurricane forced him to land in the desert, where he was marooned for two days before his mechanics arrived to carry out repairs.

After his experiences flying with No. 94 Squadron, Walker was offered an instructor’s job. He did not want this and so volunteered to transfer to No. 6 Squadron RAF who were preparing to join the war in Italy. He was promoted to war substantive flight lieutenant on 1 December 1943.

With No. 6 Squadron he excelled at very low-level flying to attack ships with rockets, often at night, in his single-engine Hurricane. Twice he had to bail out when hit; on one occasion he was rescued from a dinghy under enemy fire and on another he indicated his position with an SOS on the beach using seaweed which was spotted five days later. On both occasions, it was the same American flying boat that picked him up.

On , he was awarded an ‘immediate’ Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and on he was awarded a bar to his DFC. He had flown 169 operational sorties.

On his return from operations in October 1944, he was posted as an instructor on the Hawker Typhoon, based in the New Forest. He was released from RAF service in 1946.

He returned to the family business, building more than 2,000 council houses and 1,000 private houses in the aftermath of the war and being elected Liberal councillor for Warley ward.

He also had building interests in Perth, Western Australia, and divided his time between Perth and Halifax. He died in Perth on .

Further information is available on Wikipedia.