North-Lewis had taken command of No 181
Squadron in May 1944, and was heavily engaged in attacking
road and rail targets in the days leading up to the Allied
invasion of France a month later. He led his squadron in
attacks against the coastal radar system - including the
installation at St Peter Port on Guernsey - and in the first
five days of June all but one of the important coastal radar
sites had been put out of action.
Once the land forces were established in
Normandy, the operational task of the Typhoon force was to
provide close air support to the British Second Army. On
June 7 North-Lewis led No 181 on three operations to attack
tanks and transports. He had a very narrow escape as he flew
over Carpiquet airfield when a bullet shattered the canopy
of his Typhoon, missing his head by inches. For the next few
days his squadron was constantly in action, and in the
10-day period after D-Day North-Lewis flew 20 close support
sorties. By the middle of June his squadron was operating
from a temporary airstrip near Caen.
On August 7 a major German counter-attack,
spearheaded by five Panzer divisions, was identified moving
against just two US infantry divisions. The Panzers had
already captured three important villages and were
threatening to cut off the US Third Army near Mortain as it
began moving into Brittany. A shuttle service of Typhoons
was established, and by the end of the day they had flown
more than 300 sorties, three of them led by Lewis.
The counter-attack was defeated, and the
"Day of the Typhoon" (as it became known) was adequately
summed up by an intercepted signal from the Chief of Staff
of the German Seventh Army: he reported that the attack had
come to a standstill at 13.00 hours owing to the "employment
of fighter-bombers by the enemy and the absence of our own
On August 15 North-Lewis was promoted to
wing commander in charge of No 124 Wing, consisting of three
Typhoon squadrons. A few days later it was announced that he
had been awarded a Bar to add to an earlier DFC. He then led
his squadrons during the Battle of Falaise, when the
Typhoons wreaked havoc amongst the escaping German forces.
During the airborne landings in Holland in
September North-Lewis and his pilots supported the Guards
Armoured Division as it began its dash to link up with the
forces at Eindhoven. The Typhoons put down a rolling barrage
on either side of the road, allowing the tanks to drive
forward. His wing was the first to arrive in Holland when,
three days after the capture of Eindhoven, his Typhoons
landed at the nearby, badly-damaged, airfield.
The comparative calm of the autumn months
was broken on December 16, when the Germans mounted a major
offensive through the Ardennes. The weather was atrocious,
and the enemy made significant progress. By Boxing Day the
weather had improved, and No 124 Wing was ordered to deal
with a dangerous German thrust towards a bridge over the
Meuse. North-Lewis and his squadrons attacked a large
concentration with rockets and cannons. British forces were
a few hundred yards away, and had a grandstand view of the
attack. The German thrust was halted, and within a few days
the Battle of the Bulge was over.
On the morning of March 23 1945, as the
Allies mounted an airborne assault and amphibious crossing
near Wesel on the Rhine, North-Lewis led his squadrons
against a strongpoint east of the town.
His Typhoon was hit by anti-aircraft fire
and the engine stopped. He managed to crash-land on a small
island, where he was taken prisoner; but the Germans'
situation deteriorated overnight, whereupon his captors
decided to surrender to him. He found an abandoned canoe and
paddled to the Allied lines.
North-Lewis's AOC directed that he was not
to fly again. In the previous 14 months he had flown 176
operational sorties at a time when the losses in his own
Wing had been 116 pilots killed or taken prisoner. A few
days later he was awarded an immediate DSO.
Christopher David North-Lewis (always
known as Kit) was born on March 13 1918 into a family of
Welsh colliery owners. He was educated at Marlborough, where
he performed well in the Officers' Training Corps. Before
the outbreak of war he was commissioned into the 2nd
Battalion the Queen Victoria's Rifles.
Bored with the inactivity of Army service
in England, North-Lewis answered an RAF request for Army
volunteers to train as pilots. He began flying training in
late 1940, then joined No 13 Squadron. On the night of March
30 1942 he was part of a small force of Blenheims sent to
bomb German night-fighter airfields in support of the first
Thousand Bomber raid on Cologne.
North-Lewis evaluated the American-built
Tomahawk and Mustang fighters for Army co-operation work,
and in late 1942 joined No 26 Squadron as a flight
commander, flying the Mustang. He completed many
reconnaissance sorties along the length of the north coast
of France, photographing enemy defences. These operations,
flown 200-300 yards offshore, provided important information
for planning the invasion of Normandy. He also flew many
ground attack operations against trains and transport
columns in northern France. In March 1943 he was awarded a
Soon after North-Lewis had returned to
England in May 1945, it was announced that the Dutch
Government had awarded him the Bronze Lion (Dutch DSO) and
the Dutch Flying Cross for his contribution to the
liberation of the Netherlands.
North-Lewis remained in the RAF after the
war, and in the early 1950s much enjoyed a tour with the
Rhodesian Air Training Group. His tour at the Nato
headquarters at Fontainebleau was interrupted when he was
summoned to London to join the planning staffs for Operation
Musketeer, the seizure of the Suez Canal. Once it had been
decided to mount the operation, in late 1956, he left for
the headquarters in Cyprus, where he remained until the
withdrawal from Egypt in December.
In August the next year North-Lewis
assumed command of No 7 Squadron, flying Valiants. After
just a year he was promoted to group captain and took
command of Wyton, where the RAF's strategic reconnaissance
force was based with Valiants and Canberras. As an air
commodore he was commanding the RAF's large airbase at
Akrotiri, in Cyprus, when the Javelin squadron based there
was dispatched to Zambia following the Rhodesian
government's declaration of independence. During his time in
Cyprus North-Lewis raised a polo team and played in Jordan
against a team of King Hussein's. In February 1971, after
serving on the intelligence staff at the MoD, he retired
from the RAF.
North-Lewis became director of the British
Printing Ink Manufacturers, where one of his tasks was to
maintain relations with Natsopa, at the time one of the more
militant print unions, and to help negotiate annual pay
negotiations, a responsibility he found both stimulating and
enjoyable. He retired after 12 years in the job.
Once described by a friend as "a man of
the old school", North-Lewis could be both impatient and
irascible, but was known for his modesty, honesty and
integrity. Throughout his life he enjoyed sport, and was a
keen golfer at Liphook, in Hampshire, where he served on the
club's committee for a number of years and continued play
until he was in his late eighties.
He was a strong supporter of reunions of
his wartime colleagues, and was particularly touched when
the French raised a memorial at Noyers-Bocage in memory of
the 151 Typhoon pilots lost during the liberation of France.
Determined to make his 90th birthday, Kit
North-Lewis died on March 25, a few days after reaching this
milestone. He married, in 1948, Virginia Lockhart, who died
in 1985. He is survived by his second wife, Susan, and by a
son and a daughter of his first marriage.