Donald Bennett, The Pathfinders’ AOC

These are the main pages on this website about the leader of the Pathfinders, Donald Clifford Tyndall Bennett, CB, CBE, DSO (14 September 1910 – 15 September 1986)

Above: Air Vice Marshal Donald Bennett in 1945, one of a series of official portraits.


DONALD BENNETT, Air Officer Commanding:—

On 15 August 1942, Bennett began his leadership of the newly created Path Finder Force as a Group Captain. He was promoted to Air Commodore on 13 January 1943 once the success of the new Force had been proven. On the same day, the Path Finder Force became a Group – 8 Group. At the end of 1943, Bennett became Acting Air Vice Marshal, at last gaining parity of rank with the other Group commanders. He was the youngest man ever to have held that rank. He was still only 33 years old, about 20 years younger than his fellow Group commanders. 

He was the only Group commander not to receive a knighthood after the war. 



bennett with the queen at wyton
Bennett with the Queen, photograph thought to have been taken at RAF Wyton.

 


Published in 1958 (Frederick Muller Ltd, London), Bennett’s account of the PFF is essential reading for anyone interested in the Path Finder Force.

Bennett’s Memoirs


Bennett with the King and Queen
Bennett with the King and Queen

Leadership was a key quality in sustaining aircrew morale, and the commander of the Pathfinders, Don Bennett, was above all things an inspirational leader. He had immense courage and steadfastness of nerve. In his book Pathfinder, he tells the story of  being shot down whilst attacking the Tirpitz, giving the details very plainly without any hint of ‘line-shooting’.

Bennett and the Tirpitz

Bennett and the Sinking of the Tirpitz

Bennett & the Tirpitz – Bennett’s Mae West


Amongst the many decorations that Bennett received for his war service was the Russian decoration the Order of Alexander Nevsky.

Bennett and the Russians

Bennett & the Russians, continued


bennett, official portrait 2
Air Vice Marshal Bennett, 1945

Bennett was always experimenting with new and better ways of doing things:

Bennett had enormous affection for the Mosquito, ‘the greatest little aircraft ever built’.

Bennett on the PFF’s Mosquitoes


Bennett and the Development of H2S

PFF Radar Aid: H2S


Other Aspects of Bennett’s Command

Special Order of the Day by Air Commodore D.C.T.Bennett CBE, DSO, Commanding Path Finder Force, 1943

“To all ranks of the PFF.  On the 15th August 1942, five squadrons, each representing a group in Bomber Command, assembled on allotted aerodromes to form the PFF. …

First Anniversary of the PFF, 1943

 

Bennett at HQ
Bennett (centre) at PFF HQ

Bennett and the Canadians – 405 Squadron


POST-WAR

Donald Bennett, IWM Sound Recordings  (1986)

Bennett Memorial near Birthplace, Australia