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Group Captain Reg Jordan, bomber pilot who flew missions over Burma and Malaya and went on to become an ‘exceptional’ instructor – obituary

Group Captain Reg Jordan

By Telegraph Obituaries 31 July 2022

Group Captain Reg Jordan

Group Captain Reg Jordan, who has died aged 98, was 21 years old, and the holder of the DFC, when he completed a tour of operations as the pilot of Liberator bombers flying long-range missions over Burma. He later became one of the RAF’s leading flying instructors.

In July 1944, Jordan had started flying bombing operations with 356 Squadron, one of three Liberator squadrons tasked with attacking targets over Burma, Siam and Malaya, some sorties more than 14 hours long.

After two missions as a second pilot to gain experience, Jordan and his 10-man crew flew their first operation together on September 24 1944 when they attacked the railway repair shops at Maymo, 30 miles east of Mandalay. Short of fuel on the return flight, Jordan had to make an emergency landing at a forward airstrip still under construction.

By mid-October 1944, Jordan had flown just a few missions when he found himself leading a formation of four aircraft to attack the port at Moulmein (now known as Mawlamyine) in southern Burma. Cloud covered the target, so Jordan led his formation to low-level to make visual contact and the outcome was direct hits on the port facilities, despite facing heavy anti-aircraft fire. A few weeks later, a photograph of the formation’s bombing pattern appeared on the front cover of the Eastern Air Command News.

On November 2, due to a faulty engine, Jordan had to delay his take-off for a night attack against the Makkasan railway workshops on the outskirts of Bangkok. Approaching the target after the main force had bombed and departed, his Liberator came under heavy anti-aircraft fire, but he pressed on.

When the bomb-aimer released the bombs, the appropriate indications appeared on his panel. However, nothing was seen, and the crew became suspicious that the bombs had failed to release. By the time this was confirmed, the bomber was 100 miles from the target on its return flight.

Jordan immediately turned back to make an attack knowing that his fuel state would be critical for the return to base.

The second attack was successful, despite another barrage of anti-aircraft fire. Jordan and his engineer calculated that they had insufficient fuel and they nursed the bomber’s engines for maximum fuel economy before landing at Chittagong with the tanks almost empty after a 14-hour flight.

On Christmas Eve, Jordan took off to attack the railway sidings at Phu Lang Thuong, 35 miles east of Hanoi, a target 1,300 miles from his base. After they had crossed the Irrawaddy River, the flight was over mountainous country before he let down over the Red River when the target was identified and attacked. Short of fuel on the return flight, he was once again forced to land at Chittagong before re-fuelling and returning to his base, 18 hours after taking off.

From January 1945, the Liberator squadrons flew in support of the Fourteenth Army’s advance towards Rangoon; this included bombing the Burma-Siam railway from low-level. Jordan and his crew also flew “Pathfinder” sorties illuminating the target for the following bombers.

In April it was announced that Jordan had been awarded the DFC. The citation made specific mention of his two attacks in October when he “attained excellent results in most difficult circumstances…having displayed outstanding initiative and the greatest determination to complete his missions successfully”.

When Jordan was rested at the beginning of May, he had flown 35 operational missions.

Reginald Walter Jordan was born in Wellington, Somerset, on September 2 1923. Hooked on flying from the age of nine, he joined the Air Defence Cadet Corps in 1939 before transferring to the newly formed Air Training Corps in 1941 when he became a flight sergeant. He volunteered to join the RAF on his 17th birthday and was called up a year later.

He trained as a pilot in Canada and was commissioned. After returning to England on the Queen Elizabeth, he trained on bombers before being sent to India to learn to fly the US-built four-engine heavy bomber, the Liberator. He arrived at the beginning of 1944 and, after completing the conversion course, he joined the recently formed 356 Squadron, based at Salbani, 60 miles west of Calcutta.

After leaving the squadron, he became an instructor on the Liberator. In November 1946 he left the RAF but re-joined in April 1949 and began training at the Central Flying School (CFS) as a flying instructor.

In May 1950 he left for Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to be an instructor at No 4 Flying Training School. In December 1952 he returned to CFS, where he joined the staff training future jet flying instructors. Assessed as an exceptional instructor, he was awarded the coveted A1 category.

In November 1954, Jordan joined 25 Squadron flying the Meteor night fighter. On promotion, he transferred to 219 Squadron as a flight commander, flying the single-engine Venom night fighter. He missed the added security offered by the twin-engine Meteor.

After a spell in command of a ground radar unit, Jordan returned to CFS to command the advanced squadron in the Standards Flight. It was his responsibility to lead a team inspecting RAF flying units to assess the level of instruction and ensure that the high standards expected were being maintained. In addition to visits within the UK, the Standards team made annual visits overseas to RAF units, and also to foreign air forces where they were invited to perform the examining function.

Jordan’s appointment gave him ample opportunity to fly a wide variety of the training version of modern fighters. He was involved in investigating the characteristics of the Hunter aircraft during an inverted spin, and the actions necessary to recover to normal flight.

Leaving CFS on promotion to wing commander, Jordan was awarded the AFC for his command of the Standards Flight. He spent the next two years in the Air Ministry assessing the capabilities of Soviet air defence systems before returning to a flying appointment as the station commander of RAF Manby near Louth, home of the College of Air Warfare and the School of Refresher Flying – the latter giving him ample opportunity to remain in flying practice.

Jordan arrived at HQ RAF Germany in November 1967 in charge of air plans. “I could hardly have chosen a more interesting stage to take up my post,” he commented. “The outline plans for the introduction of the Harrier, Jaguar and Buccaneer had to be prepared for the arrival of the aircraft.”

During the following three years, his team devoted a large amount of time preparing for Harrier operations, and plans had to be made to secure the major airfields against air attack by building hardened shelters, and siting air defence missile sites.

In February 1970, Jordan took early retirement and accepted a post as an aircraft sales manager with the Manchester division of Hawker Siddeley Aviation and its successor organisations, duties which involved extensive travel overseas.

Jordan enjoyed fell walking, bridge and golf – the last outside the strictures of formal competitions. He wrote an autobiography, To Burma Skies and Beyond (1995). In 2005 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Reg Jordan never married.

Reg Jordan, born September 2 1923, died June 30 2022

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