It was with deep regret that the members of 121 ( Nuneaton ) Squadron heard that Wing Commander Tom Bussey, a former member of their Civilian Committee had passed away at the age of 95.
Having retired from the RAF Wing Commander Tom Bussey LVO, OBE, BEM, RAF (Ret'd) who lived in Fenny Drayton at the time, served for many years as an active member of the 121 ( Nuneaton ) Squadron Civilian Committee. He was the driving force behind the acquisition of the Squadron's Banner. In April 1986, Wg Cdr Bussey presented the new banner to the Squadron during a historic parade in front of the Nuneaton Council House.
Wg Cdr Bussey's RAF career was an inspiration to the cadets and staff who served with him. William Thomas Bussey joined the RAF in July 1935. After qualifying as a flight mechanic he was part of the guard of honour for the visit in October 1937 to RAF Mildenhall of a delegation of senior Luftwaffe officers led by General Milch, the German Secretary of State for Air.
In September 1939 Tom Bussey joined the engineering team on the King's Flight. His first task was to familiarise himself with the Flight's new Hudson aircraft, taking a short air-gunners' course so that he could man the guns on flights carrying royal passengers.
As the Battle of Britain started, Tom accompanied the Duke of Kent on his many visits to RAF airfields. The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester were also regular users of the Flight as they visited military units.
In August 1941, Tom Bussey manned the guns as King George VI was taken to Hatston in the Orkney Islands , with a fighter escort provided by a Czechoslovakian Hurricane squadron. The Czech pilots were immensely proud of the honour and flew in very close formation - much to the consternation of the crew, but not the King's.
After delivering the monarch, the aircraft had to fly close to Scapa Flow , which had just been subjected to an air attack, and the Navy welcomed their approach by opening fire. "Fortunately," Tom Bussey noted, "they were not very good shots.
The King's Flight was disbanded in March 1942, and the aircraft and personnel formed the nucleus of a new squadron, No 161, at Tempsford near Bedford . Its role was to support clandestine operations and supply equipment and personnel to the resistance organisations in north-west Europe .
The squadron also made several trips to the Middle East using a Halifax , with Tom as the air and ground engineer. On one occasion, when flying to Algiers in support of Churchill's visit to the Casablanca Conference, an engine failed at Gibraltar . Tom Bussey salvaged a serviceable Merlin engine from a crashed Spitfire and fitted it to the Halifax . The patchwork aircraft then returned to England , though Tom observed that, "the throttle synchronisation looked a little untidy".
In December 1943 he left the squadron to be commissioned in the technical branch. For his service with the King's Flight and with No 161 he was twice mentioned in despatches and was awarded a BEM.
After receiving his commission early in 1944 Tom Bussey left for India , where for nearly three years he served at the staging post of Santa Cruz , near Bombay . In September 1948 he was recalled to the King's Flight for two years. Then, after two years in Iraq , in November 1955 he returned to what was by then the Queen's Flight for his third tour and in December 1957 Tom Bussey was appointed senior engineering officer.
Tom's overseas tours with the Flight included taking the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to Nigeria in 1956 and to Nepal in 1961. In Borneo in 1959 he managed to persuade a local guard of honour to remove bayonets for fear that they might puncture the skin of the aircraft as they assembled. After a short absence he returned to discover that the guard was peacefully cooking its evening meal on an open fire under the aircraft's wing tip.
On leaving the Queen's Flight in May 1961, Tom Bussey was promoted to wing commander and moved to Headquarters Flying Training Command before serving for three years in Malta as the senior technical officer. In 1965 he commanded the apprentice wing at RAF Halton, and his final appointment was in command of the engineering wing at Binbrook, the home of two of the RAF's Lightning fighter squadrons.
After retiring from the RAF in September 1967 Wg Cdr Tom Bussey was a strong supporter of the Air Training Corps and the Royal Air Force Association, serving as chairman of the branch in Coventry . He was a founder member of the Queen's Flight Association, where he was much admired as an after-dinner speaker, particularly for his stories of the pre-war period.
Wg Cdr Tom Bussey, who was appointed MVO ( Member of the Royal Victorian Order in 1952), LVO ( Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order in 1961) and OBE (1965), died on the 8 th December 2009.
Flight Lieutenant Paul Hincks of 121 (Nuneaton) squadron said, “On behalf of 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron including former cadets and staff who knew him, I would like to extend our condolences to Tom's wife Sylvia and his family, he was not only a great colleague, but a great friend to everyone who knew him and an excellent role model to many young cadets considering a career in the RAF”.
“Wing Commander Tom Bussey's lasting contribution to the life and soul of our Squadron, namely it's Banner, will fly in front of 121 Squadron every time we parade as a lasting reminder of his remarkable career and outstanding support of the Air Cadets during his time as a member of our Civilian Committee”.