Monday, December 17, 2007

Robert 'Robin' E.M.B. Milne AFC 1899-1976

Robin Milne climbing into an Airspeed Oxford in 1947.

Robin Milne flying the Airspeed Ambassador

Robin Milne in familar surrounding,flying one of the more than 2000 Airspeed Oxfords he test flew.

Robin Milne was born on the 23 January 1899 at Cannington Manor, Manitoba,Canada. His first encounter with flying came as an 11year old schoolboy, when he watched a display at his school’s sportsday.
Robin Milne joined the Royal Canadians (Lord Strathcona’s Horse) and came to England with his Regiment in 1916. His unit was stationed next to the Air Gunnery School in Hythe,Kent where he used to watch the aircraft, as a break away from the horses. He put in for and was granted a transfer to the Royal Flying Corps,and was posted to No43 Training Depot Station for flight training on Maurice Farman Shorthorns and Avro 504K’s.
After graduating in 1917, he was posted for a course at the School of Special Flying. He emerged with his Instructor’s Ticket (Category A.I) having a total of less than 14hours total flying in his logbook!. He was initially posted to TDS and then No1 Fighting School at Turnberry, however, keen to see action, he applied for and was posted to No28 Sqn during September 1918 at their base in Italy. He flew only a handful of fighter patrols and escorts in his Sopwith Pup before the armistice in November 1918.
On his return to England he put in another spell of instructing before being posted to Leuchars, where the newly formed RAF was looking for Camel pilots for ‘flying off’ trials from HMS Furious. After completing the trials he went to Copenhagen to join HMS Furious before transferring the HMS Vindictive for service in the Baltic in the Russian campaign fighting the Bolsheviks, he was there for 11months.
During this time he flew several patrols and was shot down by a Russian Cruiser, narrowly cheating death when he crash landed in a bog. He was taken prisoner and held in a little hut with a solitary guard. The ‘family’ version is that he waited for the guard to get drunk then nabbed his skis to freedom, athough Robin Milne was an extremely fit & motivated man, maybe something less fortunate happened to the guard!. He was mentioned in despatches for his service in the Baltic.
After a good spell of leave, Robin Milne was given a short service commission and posted as an instructor on the first course at Cranwell College. He was given a second A.I rating and was there for the next 5 years (he trained three R.M Groves memorial prize winners including H.Waghorn,winner of the 1929 Schneider Trophy race). He was granted a permanent commission in 1923 and posted to Katachi Depot in India as a Test Pilot where he spent the next 5 years. He returned to England in 1930 and left the RAF in 1931.
After a break of over a year from flying, Robin Milne joined the National Flying Service as an instructor at their Reading Club. When this was taken over by Phillips and Powis, which then became Miles Aircraft Ltd, he was appointed Chief Pilot for testing and Instructing.
His first prototype was the Cirrus Hawk, he also did most of the development flying on all the other Miles built aircraft. He left in 1936 to join Aircraft Distributors Ltd, then to 46 EFTS at Portsmouth as Deputy Chief Flying Instructor.
On the outbreak of WW2 in 1939 he was recalled to the Colours and posted to A.ST. He was released for special duty and joined Airspeed as a Test Pilot. The major part of his work at Airspeed was production testing of the Oxford, and by the end of the war he had tested over 2000 Oxford’s.(An incident recorded in his log-book with the Oxford turret blowing off, “ took off as Mk2, landed as Mk 1 ”).
In addition to this, he did development testing on the Horsa Glider, Consul. He also flew the DH Mosquito and Beaufighter and post war the Ambassador. When flying from Portsmouth, one of Robin’s lesser jobs (or hobbies perhaps) was roughly counting the bomb craters in the harbour mud courtesy of the Luftwaffe – Chichester Harbour was used as a lit decoy away from Portsmouth. He regularly flew mock ‘dog-fights’ with Ron Clear over Langstone Harbour – was doing so one day when a Director turned up on the ground. “ What the hell are they doing ?” “ Err,,,checks, Sir !” “ Yes, a cheque for a few thousand if they hit each other !”
After Airspeed were taken over, he ended up flying with DeHavilland, on the Dove & Comet.
Not many people can have graduated from flying Sopwith Camels to DH Comets, with very important war work in between!. He amassed more than 10,000 hours on more than 100 types of aircraft. He was a keen mountaineer when not flying, and climbed the Eiger.