Much of the following is from Spink catalogue of 19 April 2007. Transcribed by Huguette Mondor Oates.

EMBRY, Basil Edward, F/O - Air Force Cross - awarded as per London Gazette dated 1 January 1926. The recommendation states:

For outstanding determination and devotion to duty in flying the Vernon Ambulance in Iraq. This officer has invariably pushed through to his objective in order to collect urgent cases of sick in spite of every imaginable difficulty and under exceptionally adverse weather conditions, and in doing so has displayed high courage and zeal in addition to the utmost skill in flying, navigation and air pilotage.

EMBRY, Basil Edward, F/L now S/L - No.1 (Indian) Wing Station - Mention in Despatches - awarded as per London Gazette dated 8 May 1936.

For distinguished services rendered in connection with the Mohmand operations, North West Frontier of India, 15th/16th August to 15th/16th October 1935.

EMBRY, Basil Edward, Squadron Leader, AFC - No.20 (Army Cooperation) Squadron -Distinguished Service Order - awarded as per London Gazette dated 13 September 1938.

For Gallant and distinguished services rendered in connection with operations in Waziristan, 1938’.

The recommendation states:

The success of the Shami Pir Operations was largely due to this officer’s initiative as a commander, quite apart from his exceptional flying ability and complete disregard of personal danger. During the Kharra Operations, he was largely responsible for the heavy casualties to the enemy and the resulting comparatively few casualties in our troops. Throughout all recent operations his Squadron was remarkable for a sustained very high standard of performance and general efficiency both in the air and on the ground.

The magazie Aeroplane wrote:

According to reports from India the operations at Shamir Pir were successful largely because of the initiative of Squadron Leader Embry.

EMBRY, Basil Edward, W/C, DSO, AFC (09252) - Bar to Distinguished Service Order - awarded as per London Gazette dated 30 April 1940.

In April, 1940, Wing commander Embry led a squadron of twelve aircraft in an attack on Stavanger aerodrome and seaplane base. He successfully completed his task and returned to his base, with the whole squadron, in despite the failure of one of his engines before he reached his objective. Again, two days later, he led his squadron in another attack on Stavanger, which was also a success, and very valuable photographs were taken. During this flight, he suffered from frost-bite. The satisfactory results achieved were due primarily, to the courage, determination and fine leadership of this officer.

The original recommendation states:

On 15th April, 107 Squadron was ordered to attack Stavanger Aerodrome and Seaplane base with 12 aircraft from Lossiemouth. Wing Commander Embry led a squadron and, in spite of one of his engines cutting out before he reached his objective, he successfully completed the task and returned to his base with his whole Squadron, on one engine. The attack was completely successful and the courage and determination with which it was pressed home was due to a very great extent to the leadership and fine example of Wing Commander Embry. On 17th April, Wing Commander Embry again led his squadron of 12 Blenheims to attack Stavanger. This attack was also a success, and very valuable photographs were taken. During this flight he suffered from frost bite. There is no doubt that the success of these attacks was due, primarily, to the courage, determination and fine leadership of Wing Commander Embry and I recommend an immediate award of a bar to his Distinguished Service Order.

EMBRY, Basil Edward, Wing Commander, DSO, AFC (09252) - Second Bar to Distinguished Service Order - awarded as per London Gazette dated 20 August 1940..

During the operations over the Low Countries and France, Wing Commander Embry continued to display an extremely high standard of leadership and resolution in carrying out all tasks allotted to his squadron, raising its morale to a high level and setting an example to the other squadrons in his group. He has shown a high sense of duty and determination.

EMBRY, Basil Edward, G/C, DSO, AFC- Mention in Despatches - awarded as per London Gazette dated 24 September 1941.

EMBRY, Basil Edward, W/C, DSO, AFC- Mention in Despatches - awarded as per London Gazette dated 11 June 1942.

EMBRY, Basil Edward, Acting Air Vice0Marshal, DSO, AFC - Companion, Order of the Bath - awarded as per London Gazette dated 1 January 1945. The recommendation states:

This officer has commanded the Group [No. 2] since June, 1943. The force consists of two Mosquito Wings in addition to light and medium bombers. By its nature, it is a specialized force which, for operational efficiency, depends primarily upon the direction, leadership, and personal example of the Commander, both in the air and on the ground. Until January, 1943, the Group concentrated on day operations but in view of the requirements for the Normandy operations, the Group’s main effort has been concentrated on night operations as from February, 1944. The record of success since the commencement of the invasion has been outstanding and this may be attributed to the inspiration given by Air Vice Marshal Embry.

EMBRY, Basil Edward, Acting Air Vice-Marshal, CB, DSO, AFC - Distinguished Flying Cross - awarded as per London Gazette dated 22 June 1945.

On three occasions within recent months, Air Vice-Marshal Embry took part in air attacks on Gestapo Headquarters. The targets were at Aarhus, Copenhagen, and Odense respectively. In the first operation, complete surprise was achieved and the attack proved highly successful. At Copenhagen, the operation was also well executed and success obtained. At Odense, the target was cleverly camouflaged, making the task on hand even more difficult. In spite of this, several runs were made over the target, which was finally attacked with great precision. In these hazardous missions, Air Vice-Marshal Embry pressed home his attacks with a skill and gallantry in keeping with his outstanding reputation.

EMBRY, Basil Edward, Air Vice-Marshal, CB, DSO, AFC - (09252, Royal Air Force) - Air Officer Commanding, No.2 Group - Third Bar to Distinguished Service Order - awarded as per London Gazette dated 20 July 1945. No citation in Gazette; following text from Flight, 2 August 1945.

In 1940, Air-Vice-Marshal Embry was a prisoner of war in Germany. After his escape, 70,000 Reichmarks were offered for his capture but in spite of this he has, since D Day, flown on many operational sorties. He has flown as an ordinary pilot of the force on many long and hazardous flights, often in adverse weather, setting throughout an example of skill and courage that has inspired the squadrons in his group and has materially contributed to the high standard of operational efficiency they have obtained.

The recommendation for this award stated:

Air Vice-Marshal Embry was a Prisoner-of-War in Germany in 1940. During his escape, he found it necessary to kill three Germans with the result that a price of 70,000 Reichmarks was placed on his head. In spite of this greatly increased hazard in the event of capture, he has, since D-Day in 1944 taken part, by night and by day in the operations shown below. He has refused to lead and has flown his Mosquito as an ordinary pilot of the force. This example of personal skill and courage by the A.O.C., has had such an inspiring effect upon his squadrons of 2 Group that their standard of operational efficiency has reached a height which has never been exceeded. For these operations, involving long and hazardous flights in varying conditions of summer and winter weather, I strongly recommend A.V.M. Embry for the award of a third bar to his DSO. Since September 1939, a total of 120 sorties amounting to approximately 360 hours has been flown. Since D-Day, the details are as follows:

7.6.44……………………… Night Interdiction
20.6.44……………………..Night Interdiction
7.7.44……………………… Night Inderdiction
23.7.44……………………. S.A.S. Special Target, Cherbourg
30.7.44……………………. Attack on Submarine Rest Centre, Chateauneuf
4.8.44………………………. Night Interdiction
14.8.44………………………. Attack on enemy positions 5 miles north of Falaise
18.8.44………………………. Attack on S.S. Barracks at Egletons
31.10.44…………………….. Attack on Gestapo Headquarters, Aarhus
23.3.45………………………. Attack on Gestapo Headquarters, Copenhagen
31.3.45………………………. Attack on enemy gun positions at Emmerich
17.4.45………………………. Attack on Gestapo Headquarters, Odense.

EMBRY, Basil Edward, Acting Air-Vice-Marshal, CB, DSO, DFC, AFC - Knight, Order of the British Empire - awarded as per London Gazette dated 3 July 1945. The recommendation states:

Air Vice-Marshal Embry has commanded 2 Group since 1st June 1943. By his personal direction, control and encouragement and his own participation in selected hazardous missions, he has raised the efficiency and effectiveness of the Group to the highest all-round standard of combat airmanship reached by any such force in the war. His medium bombers were used by day but his Mosquitoes specialized in night operations and pin point targets by day. They comprised the only effective night force working with our armies on the whole of the American and British front in Europe. These 200 Mosquitoes were the bane of the enemy’s life and they must be given a share in victory quite disproportionate to their numbers. In the war circumstances of the past 12 months, with continuous operations by night and by day, from bases in England and on the continent, the load on Air Vice-Marshal Embry has probably been heavier than on any other Air Commander. His organization, administration and tactical direction were excellent but something more was needed. The efficiency of his Group depended primarily upon the morale of the air crews and the inspiration of the unit commanders. To ensure these factors, he flew as a pilot with his squadrons, selecting, where possible, both by day and by night, the more dangerous tasks. There has been a crusading spirit about Air Vice-Marshal Embry’s work which has added the keen edge to the Group’s operations, both on the ground and in the air.

EMBRY, Sir Basil Edward, Air Vice Marshal, KBE, CB. DSO, DFC, AFC – French Legion of Honour - proposed 20 November 1945, accepted 5 December 1945.

EMBRY, Sir Basil Edward, Acting Air Vice-Marshal, KBE, CB, DSO, DFC, AFC - Mention in Despatches - awarded as per London Gazette dated 1 January 1946.

EMBRY, Sir Basil Edward, Air Vice-Marshal, KBE, CB, DSO, DFC, AFC - Denmark, Order of the Dannebrog, Commander First Class- awarded as per London Gazette dated 11 February 1947.

EMBRY, Sir Basil Edward, Air Vice-Marshal, KBE, CB, DSO, DFC, AFC -Netherlands, Order of Orange-Nassau, Grand Officer (with Swords) - awarded as per London Gazette dated 18 November 1947.

EMBRY, Sir Basil Edward, Air Chief Marshal, KCB, KBE, DSO, DFC, AFC – Knight Grand Cross (KGCB), Order of the Bath – awarded as per London Gazette dated 2 January 1956.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES: Air Chief Marshal Sir Basil Edward Embry, GCB, KBE, DSO, DFC, AFC was born on 28 February 1902 at Barnwood, Gloucester and educated at Bromsgrove School, Worcestershire. He was commissioned Pilot Officer in the R.A.F., on at first a short service commission, in March 1921 carrying out his initial flying training at Netheravon. Not content with the sedentary life on a home-based squadron, and having gained his Wings in April 1922, he immediately applied for an overseas posting, and In August 1922 joined No. 45 Squadron in Iraq, being promoted to Flying Officer the following month. He spent five years on active operations in that country, initially with No. 45 Squadron flying DH9As and Vickers Vernons, with his final two years with No. 30 Squadron, again flying DH9As. In January 1926, he was appointed to a permanent commission, retaining his rank of Flying Officer, and that month’s New Years Honours List announced the award of the A.F.C. for his work with his first squadron – the first formal recognition in what turned out to be a glittering career.

Following two tours instructing in the UK, initially at his old school at Netheravon, staff appointments, and a year at the R.A.F. Staff College, he was posted to India, arriving in March 1934. He was fully occupied in active operational flying for the next two years, keeping the peace on India’s North West Frontier, and was promoted Squadron Leader in December 1935, but in March 1936 moved to R.A.F. India H.Q. – another staff appointment. However, this was short lived and in October 1937, he was appointed to command No. 20 Squadron at Peshawar, the role being close support of army columns, and within a year he had earned the first of his four D.S.O.s. During his five years in India, he took part in the Mohmand campaign of 1935 and the Waziristan campaigns of 1937 and 1938. Additional confirmation of a successful tour was that he received promotion to Wing Commander on its completion in February 1939, and another staff appointment at the Air Ministry.

With the outbreak of war in September 1939, Embry quickly manoeuvred himself into the command of No. 107 Squadron at R.A.F. Wattisham, a Blenheim bomber unit which had already begun operations and suffered casualties. On 25 September, Embry led a formation of three Blenheims on a reconnaissance mission to Germany. They were attacked by German fighters and Embry’s aircraft suffered serious damage to wings and fuselage, with the tyre of one main wheel being slashed. He carried out a one-wheel landing on reaching Wattisham – his baptism of war had begun!

The Phoney War over, No. 107 Squadron was called upon to carry out an increased number of reconnaissances, the purpose of which was to keep watch on the German naval bases. On 6 April, 1940, a photo reconnaissance mission revealed that a German force, including the two battle-cruisers Gneisenau and Schornhorst, was at anchor off Wilhelmshaven. From then on Embry and his crews were fully involved in attacks on the German fleet. Embry’s superiors began to witness his personal restless urge to lead in the air and to attack the enemy at every opportunity. He was warned by his A.O.C. that he was carrying out too much operational flying and that he must guard against it in the future. It is obvious that Embry turned a deaf ear to the friendly but authoritative directive! The German campaign in Norway was now in full swing and No. 107 Squadron, detached to Lossiemouth in Scotland, carried out ten raids in eight days on the airfield at Stavanger. Atrocious weather conditions and close Luftwaffe opposition made these missions extremely hazardous. The squadron gained many decorations and medals for gallantry and Embry’s personal recognition was a first bar to his D.S.O.

On return to Wattisham on 3 May, 1940, the squadron drew breath and worked up to operational strength again. Then, on 10 May, the German blitzkrieg invasion of the low Countries erupted. Within hours, Embry and his crews were in the thick of a battle to stem the German advance, with each crew flying two or three sorties daily across the Channel to France. On 12 May, he led his squadron in company with No. 110 Squadron to attack two bridges crossing the Albert Canal at Maastricht. They were savaged by ground flak and jumped by numerous Messerschmitts, losing seven Blenheims between them. A further two No. 107 Squadron aircraft crash-landed back at Wattisham, and examination showed that every surviving Blenheim had suffered shell and bullet strikes.

This mission set the pattern for squadron operations for the next few weeks, battling against overwhelming odds to assist the retreating British Army on its path to Dunkirk and eventual partial survival. His leadership, personal gallantry and resolution during this period resulted in the award of a second bar to his D.S.O. By 26 May, the pace of operations was beginning to take its toll on Embry, and on his return from his last sortie that day he was ordered to leave No. 107 Squadron and take over command of R.A.F. West Raynham with promotion to Group Captain. His protests were to no avail, but next day, he led his squadron, with his appointed successor in support, for the last time in an attack on German troops advancing on Dunkirk. Making his bombing run into heavy flak, his aircraft received a direct hit, killing the air gunner and sending the aircraft out of control. He and his navigator bailed out and Embry’s parachute put him down behind the enemy lines near St. Omer. He was captured by the Germans, and was being marched away to a Prisoner of War camp with other captives when he saw a road sign ‘Embry, 3 km’. Taking this as an omen, he rolled down a bank and made his escape. Evading the Germans for two months, he eventually made his way through France and Spain to Gibraltar. Nine weeks and five days after bailing out of his crippled aircraft, Embry stepped ashore in the UK. The story of these dramatic events is told in Wingless Victory by Anthony Richardson (Odhams Press).

After some two months sick leave, Embry was posted as Senior Administration Officer to No. 6 Group, with the rank of Group Captain. His appointment was extremely short lived and after reverting to the rank of Wing Commander began a period of flirtation with Fighter command, initially to command a wing comprised of Nos. 151 and 264 Squadron. By December 1940, he was commanding a sector at Wittering, a post he filled for some 10 months, before being seconded to the Desert Air Force in North Africa. On return to England in March 1942, he resumed command of the Wittering Secto. In early 1943, he was appointed Senior Air Staff Officer at No. 10 Group, Fighter Command. But again, this appointment was short-lived and in May 1943, he took command of No. 2 Group, Bomber Command, in the throes of being transferred to the 2nd Tactical Air Force (T.A.F.), as part of the build up of the Allied invasion of German occupied Europe. He was now an acting Air Vice Marshal with command initially of some 10 squadrons operating a variety of aircraft and had been considered as a possible candidate for the command of the Pathfinder Force, but ‘Bomber’ Harris was against the idea as he recognized that Embry’s character and personality was too much like his own.

Embry didn’t take long to acquaint himself with his new command and impressed all by piloting all types of aircraft in a relatively short period. He issued orders that all station commanders were to fly at least two or three operations each month with their resident squadrons and leading by example he commenced operations himself usually in a subordinate position to the formation leader. His group expanded as the months went by, and being re-equipped with the formidable Mosquito. From late 1943 to May 1944, the group was involved principally in attacking VI rocket sites. His squadrons developed a reputation for attacking pin-point targets, often single buildings in a built-up area. One of the most publicized was Operation Jericho on 18 February 1944 when the Mosquitoes attacked Amiens prison and liberated hundreds of French patriots, many under sentence of death by the Gestapo. Whilst Embry planned this raid, he was ordered by higher authority not to participate. However, as evidenced by the detail in the recommendation for the third bar to his D.S.O., Embry did take part in several other equally successful precision attacks, often under the pseudonym ‘Wing Commander Smith’. The successful raid on the Gestapo H.Q. at Odense on 17 April 1945, was to be his final operational sortie of the war. He had remained in the thick of fighting all through the war, and few had such varied experience both of combat and command. He was fortunate to survive unscathed.

The war over, Embry was asked by Marshal of the R.A.F. Portal to organize and coordinate a fund to help those people in the occupied countries who had helped British aircrew evade capture and escape back to Britain. Within a few months he had raised over 20,000 pounds for what became known as the R.A.F. Escaping Society, and remained its chairman for the next ten years.

Meanwhile, his first peacetime appointment in 1945 saw him as Director General of Training (R.A.F.), and he was promoted to Air Vice Marshal in July 1947. This was followed by four years as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Fighter Command, from April 1949 to April 1953, with the rank of Air Marshal from January 1951, and he was a representative of the R.A.F. both at the funeral of King George VI, and the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. In July 1953, he was appointed to N.A.T.O. as Commander-in-Chief, Allied Air Forces Central Europe, and was promoted to his final rank of Air Chief Marshal that December. He was in practice the Air Force Commander to the tri-Service Supreme Commander, Marshal of France Juin.

It was a period of frustration for Embry and he failed to convince various Allied military and political appointees of the need to revise their attitude to the vital importance of air power. His blunt and utterly frank criticism of existing N.A.T.O. organizations did not endear him to either his N.A.T.O. colleagues or to some of his Air Ministry contemporaries and on leaving his post in February 1946 – against his own wishes and those of Marshal Juin – he was not offered further service. He was appointed KGCB on 2 January 1956, quickly followed by his final day of Service on 26 February 1956. Within a few months, he emigrated to New Zealand and, by the end of the year, he had written and had published an auto-biography covering his experiences of the 35 years he had served. Mission Accomplished (Methuen & Co). He did not stay in New Zealand long before moving to Western Australia, where he took up farming and established a thriving farm out in the bush. Air Chief Marshal Sir Basil Embry died on 8 December 1977.

Basil Embry was, by any standards, one of the most inspiring leaders ever to serve in the R.A.F. But it seems that peacetime service was not to his liking, and his outspoken impatience with all forms of bureaucracy brought him few friends. One of his greatest admirers – and a colleague from his Mosquito days – described him as both charming and rude, prejudiced and broad-minded, pliable and obstinate, dedicated and human. Above all things, he was a most gallant leader of men.