Flt Lt Roy French, RAF 1926-2013
The annals of aviation history do not prominently display the name of Flight Lieutenant Roy French, RAF. However, Captain Joseph McConnell, the American ace of aces of the Korean War, had good reason to remember the name. Roy was seconded to the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing in the fall of 1952 from Fighter Command where he flew Meteors, to gain experience with the USAF and learn the Sabre. He became Joe McConnell's wingman of choice from shortly after his arrival until McConnell went home in May 1953. On the day McConnell was shot down (and shot down the Soviet ace that had shot him down before ejecting) he was wearing Roy's brain bucket, with RAF roundels over the ear pieces. Roy came back to England that summer and later flew Sabres when the RAF got their Mk. 4s. Like pretty much everyone else who flew a Sabre, it was his favorite airplane.
Over the past seven years I knew Roy (he found my model of McConnell's Sabre at Modeling Madness and originally wrote to tell me it was "the most realistic-looking" Sabre Model he'd seen, high praise indeed) I repeatedly tried to get him to let me tell his story after I had pried it out of him, but he always said "But I didn't do anything." Whatever it was he wasn't doing, McConnell certainly appreciated it, and along the way Roy scored two MiG-15s himself, to be among the top scoring RAF exchange pilots during the war.
Today, I got this e-mail from his son Julian:
"We are writing from Dad’s with the sad news that he died peacefully in York Hospital on December 20th. He had been in reasonable health until his last couple of weeks but deteriorated rapidly over the final 36 hours. "
Not a bad way to go - peacefully and quickly. That would certainly be my choice.
I've attached a picture my friend George Paterson did from that model. Since Roy also flew "Beautious Butch/Betty" on occasion, including for one of his victories, we can think that's him under the brain bucket.
I'm sure he and Joe are standing there at the pilot's bar, swapping flying stories and quaffing a few.