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Name: PROBYN, Harold Melsome 'Daddy' CB, CBE, DSO (Air Commodore)

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Birth Date: 8 Dec 1891 Wheelton, Nr. Chorley, Lancs

Death Date: 24 Mar 1992 Nanyuki

Last Date: 1992

Profession: Air commodore, retired to Nyeri

Area: 1959 The Cottage, Nyeri

Married: 1920 Marjory Savory b. 1887 Sproughton, Suffolk, d. 1961

Book Reference: Hut, Women in Kenya, DSO, Web, Campling, Air, Barnes

War Service: Royal Warwickshire Regt. and Royal Flying Corps

General Information:

Who's Who - Served European War 1914-17 (despatches, DSO); commanded 208 (AC) Squadron, Manston; 25 (Fighter) Squadron at Hawkinge; RAF School of Photography, 1932; No. 22 Group, RAF 1932-34; Senior Personnel Staff Officer, Middle East, Cairo 1934-35; Senior Engineer Staff Officer, Middle East, Cairo 1935-37; No. 12 (Fighter) Group Royal Air Force, Hucknall, Notts, 1937; served War of 1939-45 (despatches); SASO, No. 11 Fighter Group, Uxbridge, 1939-40; commanded RAF Station, Cranwell, 1940-44; retired 1944. Recreation - Flying, fishing, golf
DSO - London Gazette 17/9/17 - Second Lieut. (Temp. Captain) Royal Warwickshire Regt. and Royal Flying Corps. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. At a critical time when hostile infantry had penetrated our trenches, he went up in unfavourable weather and under heavy machine-gun and anti-aircraft fire from guns of heavy calibre, and managed to locate and report with complete accuracy the position and progress of the enemy. To do this he had to fly at a very low altitude, during which his machine was seriously damaged by enemy fire. The following day he carried out another daring and successful reconnaissance of the enemy's line, bringing back information of the greatest value. He has already experienced a whole year's strenuous service flying, a fact which speaks for his gallantry and endurance on both of these particular occasions.
Web - Tom Claytor - ' ….. Daddy Probyn in Mweiga many years ago. "Pop" Probyn is the only man I have ever met who was shot down by the Red Baron. If Probyn had a "Gin & Italian" for breakfast he could climb back into his Sopwith Camel and take you with him. He never liked radios. Even at age 92 when he was still flying solo in Kenya he would wait until the last moment before touching down at Wilson Airport in Nairobi before announcing, "Probyn landing." The tower would then scramble and remove all traffic from the way until Daddy Probyn was clear. The only time a radio was any good to him was when the Red Baron shot his gunner and the bullet that would have killed Probyn lodged itself in the heavy lead-acid battery behind his seat. Probyn trained most of the pilots for the Battle of Britain during WW2 so he had seen plenty in the warfare transition from Sopwith Camels to Spitfires.
Campling - was a veteran of the First World War. Born in England in December 1891 he learnt to fly on a Maurice Farman Pusher with the Royal Flying Corps, which he joined in 1916, and in April 1918 he became a founder officer of the newly-formed Royal Air Force. He was the commandant of Cranwell College from 1940 to 1944 …….. It was said that Probyn celebrated his retirement from the RAF by getting hold of a Spitfire and flying it over Normandy. …….. Probyn took up residence in Nyeri, as he was an old friend of the Sherbrooke-Walkers, and he and his wife Marjorie, bought a house on Coffee Ridge in Nyeri where they settled. Here he got hold of a motorised glider, a converted Grunau Baby, which he used to fly to Nairobi West from time to time, giving Eboos Garage next to the Avenue Hotel a buzz as he came over the town before landing ……….. [more]
'Daddy' Probyn had meanwhile, with the help of his house servant Mwangi (whom he styled as his 'chief engineer') built himself a wood & fabric Jodel monoplane, 5Y-ALI, dfitted with a Volkswagen engine. Stories about this engine abounded, and it was even said that he used to drive his wife's Volkswagen to the Jodel on the airstrip, take the engine out and fit it to the plane. He would then go for his joyride and, on returning, take the engine out again and put it back to use in the car. This made a good story, but an engineer's mind might query the practicality of such a manoeuvre and the complicated modifications that would be necessary to do it! One story even had it that on one occasion he fitted the engine with the exhausts facing the wrong way and could not understand why it gave trouble!
Probyn had met the Wright brothers personally when he was 12 years old. He was first introduced to Wilbur when they brought their aircraft to an exhibition at the Kensington Museum. Later the story went around that, on one occasion when Dougie Stewart of the ARB had inspected Probyn's glider he made some remark about the flaps, upon which Probyn replied that Orville had told him the same thing. Stewart asked who 'Orville' was, whereupon Probyn looked at Stewart in disbelief. Did he not know? Had he not heard of Orville Wright? In time Probyn became known as Kenya's 'Grand Old Man of Flying.' He celebrated his 90th birthday and 65 years of flying in December 1981 by making a solo flight in the Jodel and a flypast over Mweiga. There was a big party given for the occasion with an assemply of Air Force jets and light planes, and hundreds of friends and wellwishers. The Kenya Parachute Club gave a display, and this was followed by a display given by 4 members of the British Red Devils. Then 2 British jets flew low and gave the old man a barrel roll salute; all in all it was a great day for a great man. Probyn continued to fly until his 92nd birthday, which he celebrated by making his final flight. He was probably still fit enough to have passed his medical for his pilot's licence renewal, but at 92 felt that he was getting too old and that it was time to retire. ………. lived to celebrate his centenary, at which the Royal Air Force gave him a flypast for the occasion, as well as a luncheon in his honour at the Aberdare Country Club attended by about 100 people. 'Daddy' made an excellent speech thanking everyone for making his birthday such a memorable one.
The Queen visited Kenya at about that time and while she was staying at State House the RAF flew 'Daddy' down to Nairobi to meet her at a reception. He found the Queen to be quite delightful and later asked a friend to remind him who the charming young lady was to whom he had just been talking!
He died in the Nanyuki Cottage Hospital on the 24th of March 1992 during his 101st year, and left the Jodel to his friend Alan Herd.
Air - Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate No. 2693 dated 1 April 1918 - Maurice Farman Biplane, Military School, Birmingham
Barnes Nanyuki cem Air Commodore / H M Probyn CB., CBE., DSO. / 1891-1992

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