Squadron Leader Allan Scott, who has died aged 99, shot down at least five enemy aircraft over Malta, making him a Spitfire “ace” – one of the last of the Second World War.
Having joined up shortly after the end of the Battle of Britain, Scott had been flying Spitfires with 124 Squadron for six months, during which time he shared in the destruction of a Junkers 88 bomber near Clacton-on-Sea, Essex. He saw the crew bail out. After that he was ordered to Gibraltar in June 1942.
The island of Malta was under siege from relentless bombing attacks, and additional fighters were desperately needed. Thirty-two Spitfires were embarked on the aircraft carrier Eagle, which then sailed eastwards into the Mediterranean.
Early on the morning of July 21, Scott and his fellow pilots took off from the deck, and the 30 that became airborne successfully set off for Malta in four groups. As the formations passed Cape Bon in Tunisia, a cultured English voice gave them a heading to steer towards that would have taken them to enemy-held Sicily.
It was a German spoof, not an unusual ruse in this area where Malta at its closest was less than 100 miles from Sicily, designed to lure Spitfires (whose crews were coming to the end of long flights, with fuel running low) into enemy-held territory.
The Spitfire leader made a radio call to Malta; he was answered by a voice he recognised and given the correct heading for Malta.
Scott was soon in action, first with 603 Squadron and then with 1435 Squadron. On August 10 a convoy of 50 ships entered the Mediterranean with crucial supplies for the beleaguered island. The merchant ships of Operation Pedestal came under intense attack and losses were very high.
As the remnants approached Malta, fighter cover became available. On the 13th, Scott shot down an S 79 bomber of the Italian Air Force. He flew more patrols in support of the convoy until the few remaining ships, including the oil tanker Ohio, reached the safety of Valletta harbour.
Later in August Scott shot down a Messerschmit Bf 109, but the most intense period of fighting was to be in October, which became known as “The Last Blitz”, when the Axis air forces mounted a concentrated bombing campaign that was eventually driven out.
“We were all frightened, but you didn’t show fear,” Scott, describing this period, told Robert Crampton of The Times in 2018. “In combat, though, you’d get into a cold sweat. I remember it trickling down inside my mask and into my mouth. I can still taste it.”
His attitude to dying, he said, as with his comrades, was simply: “It’ll never be me. We had to be callous. You’d get back and you’d ask, ‘Where’s Jock?’ and someone would say, ‘Oh, Jock got the chop,’ and that was that. We’d got away with it. He hadn’t.”
On October 12 Scott shot down another Bf 109, probably shot down a second, and damaged a third. The following day his squadron was scrambled to meet a large bomber force approaching the island.
During the engagement, another Bf 109 fell to his guns and he damaged two Junker 88 bombers. Two days later he claimed another Bf 109 that was escorting a large bomber force.
Malta’s fighter pilots were scrambled three or four times each day but, by the 21st, the enemy raids began to reduce. In the meantime Scott had probably shot down a Bf 109 and damaged another, his final successful action. Over Malta he had accounted for five enemy aircraft, probably destroyed two more and damaged four.
Malta was saved and George VI awarded the people of the island the George Cross for their tenacity during the siege.
Scott was awarded an immediate DFM, the citation concluding that he had “exhibited the greatest courage and determination to engage the enemy”.
Allan Hugh Scott was born to Scottish parents on July 27 1921. His twin sister died in childhood and his brother was killed in Germany in the last year of the war. Allan joined the RAF in March 1941 to train as a pilot.
Returning from Malta at the end of 1942, he became an instructor at a fighter-training unit. He was later commissioned, and joined 122 Squadron equipped with Spitfires.
He flew intruder missions over northern France attacking road and rail transports from low level. In January 1944 the squadron received long-range Mustang fighters and Scott flew bomber escort missions. In the build up to D-Day, the Mustangs were fitted with bombs and Scott flew dive-bombing sorties.
In July 1944 he undertook a test pilot’s course, and for the rest of the war tested a wide variety of aircraft at maintenance units before they were ferried to squadrons. By the time he left the service in late 1947 he had tested more than 80 different types of aircraft.
After a brief period as an airline pilot, Scott re-joined the RAF in 1950. In October 1953, the Tiger Moth bi-plane he was flying suffered a structural failure and crashed. Scott was severely injured and was unable to return to flying for two years.
He later served in Iraq and flew transport aircraft worldwide. In 1963 he transferred to the air traffic control branch and retired from the RAF in 1976.
Scott’s training as an architect had been interrupted by the war and, on leaving the RAF, he joined Wimpey in Bristol as a draughtsman before becoming involved in house sales.
He retained his great interest in flying. On his 70th birthday he flew a Tiger Moth, and to celebrate the RAF’s 100 Anniversary in 2018 flew in a two-seat Spitfire. “I did a few steep turns to see if I could still cope with the G [force],” he recalled. “Then I rolled it. You don’t forget how to fly. I loved it.”
He had hoped to make another flight to celebrate his own 100th birthday next year. “Flying a Spitfire to me was wonderful,” he said. “It becomes part of you.”
“It fitted you like an overcoat. When you got into [it] your shoulders fitted either side. When the aircraft moved, you moved with it. In combat this was most essential because you could fly it instinctively. If the pilot had the skill he could use it to out-manoeuvre all enemies and beat the Messerschmitt. That saved my life a number of times.”
A modest, unassuming gentleman, who nevertheless in old age enjoyed spins in his Mercedes SLK 250, Scott became a supporter of the RAF Benevolent Fund in retirement. The current Controller of the Fund, Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliott described him as “indefatigable in his championing of RAF veterans and their sacrifices”.
Allan Scott’s wife Patricia died in 2012 and he is survived by a son.
Allan Scott, born July 27 1921, died September 8 2020