Biography

Birth date: 22 July 1916
Birth place: Australia: New South Wales, Sydney, Waverley
Death date: 29 November 1942
Death place: English Channel
Final rank: Pilot Officer
Service number: 402745 - Second World War, 1939-1945
Unit: No. 149 Squadron (RAF)

Rawdon Middleton was born on 22 July 1916 at Waverly in Sydney, a great-nephew of the explorer, Hamilton Hume. His family moved to the western districts of New South Wales when he was young and he attended school in Dubbo, becoming a keen sportsman and later finding work as a jackeroo.

He enlisted in the RAAF on 14 October 1940 under the Empire Air Training Scheme. Having learnt to fly at Narromine, New South Wales, Middleton was sent to Canada to continue his instruction. He reached Britain in September 1941 and was promoted to Flight Sergeant in December that year. In February 1942 Middleton was posted to 149 Squadron, Royal Air Force, and began his operational career. His first operational flights, to the Ruhr, were as second pilot in Stirling bombers but by July he had become first pilot. His first operation as captain of an aircraft was to Düsseldorf.

On 28 November 1942 he took off on his 29th operation, to the Fiat works in Turin, Italy. Middleton's aircraft was struck by flak over the target, one shell exploded in the cockpit wounding Middleton in the face and destroying his right eye. The same shell also wounded the second pilot and wireless operator. Middleton lost consciousness and the aircraft dived to just 800 feet before the second pilot brought it under control. They were hit by more flak as they tried to escape the target.

When Middleton regained consciousness he began the long and gruelling flight back over the Alps towards England, knowing that his damaged aircraft had insufficient fuel to complete the journey. The crew discussed the possibility of abandoning the aircraft or trying to land in northern France but Middleton decided to head for England where his crew would have the chance to bail out. As they approached the French coast the Stirling was again hit by flak but flew on. Now over the English coast with only five minutes of fuel left Middleton ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft. Five men left the stricken plane, and two remained on board to help Middleton before attempting to parachute to safety, although unfortunately both were drowned. The Stirling then crashed into the sea, killing Middleton. He was only one operation away from completing his first tour on bombers.

Middleton's bravery was recorded in the English press and earned him the admiration of the British public and a posthumous Victoria Cross. His body washed ashore at Dover on 1 February 1943 and he was buried in the churchyard of St. John's, Beck's Row, Suffolk, with full military honours

Rolls and Awards

Roll of Honour

  • Rank: Pilot Officer
  • Date of Death: 29 November 1942
  • Unit: No. 149 Squadron (RAF)

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Victoria Cross

  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Honours and Awards : Victoria Cross

  • Unit: No. 149 Squadron (RAF)
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Collection Items

Photograph

014416

1943-03-13. V.C. FOR AUSTRALIAN FLIGHT SERGEANT. FLIGHT SERGEANT R.H. MIDDLETON WAS CAPTAIN AND FIRST PILOT OF A STIRLING AIRCRAFT DETAILED TO ATTACK THE FIAT WORKS AT TURIN ONE NIGHT IN 1942-11. (NEGATIVE BY COPY NEG.).

014416

100641

FLIGHT SERGEANT RAWDON HUME MIDDLETON VC, RAAF, ATTACHED TO NO. 149 SQUADRON RAF. HE WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS POSTHUMOUSLY FOR ACTION IN THE RAID ON TURIN, ITALY, ON THE NIGHT OF 1942-11-28 TO 1942-11-29.

100641

100641A

Portrait of Flight Sergeant Rawdon Hume Middleton VC, RAAF, attached to No. 149 Squadron RAF. He was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for action in the raid on Turin, Italy, on the night of 1942-11-28 to 1942-11-29.

100641A

P00258.001

ST JOHN'S CHURCH, SUFFOLK, ENGLAND, 1952-11. COMMEMORATIVE VISIT BY RAAF AND RAF REPRESENTATIVES TO THE GRAVE OF PILOT OFFICER RAWDON HUME MIDDLETON, RAAF, ATTACHED TO 149 SQUADRON RAF, WHO DIED AS A RESULT OF WOUNDS RECEIVED IN A RAID ON TURIN, ITALY, ON THE NIGHT OF 1942-11-28. HE WAS...

P00258.001

P00258.003

SUFFOLK, ENGLAND, 1952-11. COMMEMORATIVE VISIT BY RAAF AND RAF PERSONNEL TO THE GRAVE OF PILOT OFFICER RAWDON HUME MIDDLETON VC, RAAF, WHO WAS KILLED WHILE ATTACHED TO 149 SQUADRON RAF. SEE ALSO P258/03/01,02.

P00258.003

P01019.003

Five student pilots from No. 7 Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) course at No. 5 Elementary Flying Training School (5 EFTS) Narromine. They are from left to right: 400732 Aircraftman (AC) Gordon Orchard; AC Douglas Scott; Leonard Reid; 404553 Pilot Officer (PO) Douglas Wilberforce Spooner...

P01019.003

SUK10495

England. 1943-02-05. 402745 Flight Sergeant Rawdon Hume Middleton, the RAAF's first VC winner in this war, was buried with full military honours in a country churchyard near his station. Air Vice Marshal H. N. Wrigley represented the High Commissioner for Australia (Mr S. M. Bruce) and the RAAF.

SUK10495

SUK10496

England. 1943-02-05. 402745 Flight Sergeant Rawdon Hume Middleton, the RAAF's first VC winner in this war, was buried with full military honours in a country churchyard near his station. Air Vice Marshal H. N. Wrigley represented the High Commissioner for Australia (Mr S. M. Bruce) and the RAAF.

SUK10496

SUK10497

England. 1943-02-05. 402745 Flight Sergeant Rawdon Hume Middleton, the RAAF's first VC winner in this war, was buried with full military honours in a country churchyard near his station. Air Vice Marshal H. N. Wrigley represented the High Commissioner for Australia (Mr S. M. Bruce) and the RAAF.

SUK10497

SUK10498

England. 1943-02-05. 402745 Flight Sergeant Rawdon Hume Middleton, the RAAF's first VC winner in this war, was buried with full military honours in a country churchyard near his station. Air Vice Marshal H. N. Wrigley represented the High Commissioner for Australia (Mr S. M. Bruce) and the RAAF.

SUK10498

SUK10499

England. 1943-02-05. Funeral service for 402745 Flight Sergeant Rawdon Hume Middleton, the RAAF's first VC winner. He was buried with full military honours in a country churchyard near his station. Air Vice Marshal H. N. Wrigley represented the High Commissioner for Australia (Mr S. M. Bruce) and...

SUK10499

SUK10500

England. 1943-02-05. Funeral service for 402745 Flight Sergeant Rawdon Hume Middleton, the RAAF's first VC winner. He was buried with full military honours in a country churchyard near his station. Air Vice Marshal H. N. Wrigley represented the High Commissioner for Australia (Mr S. M. Bruce) and...

SUK10500

SUK10501

England. 1943-02-05. 402745 Flight Sergeant Rawdon Hume Middleton, the RAAF's first VC winner, lying in state, was buried with full military honours in a country churchyard near his station. Air Vice Marshal H. N. Wrigley represented the High Commissioner for Australia (Mr S. M. Bruce) and the RAAF.

SUK10501

SUK10655

England. 1943-02-05. 402745 Flight Sergeant Rawdon Hume Middleton, the RAAF's first VC winner in this war, was buried with full military honours in a country churchyard near his station. Air Vice Marshal H. N. Wrigley CBE DFC AFC, represented the High Commissioner for Australia (Mr S. M. Bruce) and...

SUK10655

SUK10656

England. 1943-02-05. 402745 Flight Sergeant Rawdon Hume Middleton, the RAAF's first VC winner in this war, was buried with full military honours in a country churchyard near his station. Air Vice Marshal H. N. Wrigley CBE DFC AFC, represented the High Commissioner for Australia (Mr S. M. Bruce) and...

SUK10656

SUK10678

England. C. 1943. Portrait of 402745 Flight Sergeant (later Pilot Officer) Rawdon Hume Middleton VC of Bogan Gate, NSW, the RAAF's first VC winner in this war. The decoration was awarded posthumously and he was buried with full military honours on 1943-02-05 in a country churchyard near his station.

SUK10678

SUK10679

England. C. 1943. Portrait of 402745 Flight Sergeant (later Pilot Officer) Rawdon Hume Middleton VC of Bogan Gate, NSW, the RAAF's first VC winner in this war. The decoration was awarded posthumously and he was buried with full military honours on 1943-02-05 in a country churchyard near his station.

SUK10679

SUK10946

UK. C. 1942. Portrait of 402745 Flight Sergeant R. H. Middleton VC, taken while he was undergoing training.

SUK10946

UK0244

ENGLAND. C. 1942. PORTRAIT OF 402745 FLIGHT SERGEANT R. H. MIDDLETON VC OF YARRABANDAI, NSW.

UK0244

P00258.002

SUFFOLK, ENGLAND, 1952-11. COMMEMORATIVE VISIT BY RAAF AND RAF PERSONNEL TO THE GRAVE OF PILOT OFFICER RAWDON HUME MIDDLETON VC, WHO WAS KILLED WHILE ATTACHED TO 149 SQUADRON RAF. RAAF PERSONNEL PRESENT ARE FROM LEFT TO RIGHT, FRONT ROW, SQUADRON LEADER CHARLES BRACKENRIDGE, FLIGHT LIEUTENANT MERV...

P00258.002

Art

The incident for which Flight Sergeant Middleton was awarded the Victoria Cross

This work shows the incident for which Flight Sergeant Middleton was awarded the Victoria Cross. A Liberator ploughs into the ocean, as two parachutes float in the background. Middleton was awarded the VC for flying for 4 hours from Italy to England after being severely wounded. The two...

ART26707

Pilot Officer Rawdon Middleton

Portrait of Flight Sergeant Rawdon Hume Middleton, VC, RAAF wearing B-type flying helmet, oxygen mask and Ervin jacket. He was promoted to Pilot Officer posthumously. During the Second World War Freedman enlisted in the RAAF and was appointed as a war artist attached to the RAAF Historical War...

ART26989

Film

RAF's last tribute to bravest of brave

A British Paramount news item of the funeral of Flight-Sergeant Rawdon Hume Middleton, RAAF, who was attached to 149 Squadron, RAF Middleton was buried in the church-yard of St. John's, Beck Row, Suffolk England. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

F02004

The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (402745) Pilot Officer Rawdon Hume Middleton VC, 149 Squadron RAF, Royal Australian Air Force, Second World War

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind...

PAFU2013/148.01

Sound

Pilot Officer N E Skinner, wireless operator, 149 Squadron RAF, 28-29 November 1942, describes the action for which Flight Sergeant Rawdon Hume Middleton was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross

Rawdon 'Ron' Middleton VC was the captain of Stirling Bomber "H" for Harry, 149 Squadron RAF on the night of 28-29 November 1942. The aircraft was en route to bomb the Fiat factory in Turin, Italy when they were hit by flak and Middleton was wounded. Running low on fuel and badly injured, Middleton...

S00097

Three 'Turn of the Century' ABC Radio Programs featuring Dr Peter Stanley discussing aspects of Australia's military involvement in war and peacekeeping throughout the 1900s

PROGRAM 1: Dr Stanley discuses attitudes to war and Australia's committment to war; Australian's went to the Boer War (South Africa) with idea that war was romantic and adventurous but during the century there was a changing view of war; men went to the Great War initially with enthusiasm but the...

S02107

Heraldry

RAAF winter service dress tunic : Flight Sergeant R H Middleton, 149 Squadron RAF

RAAF blue wool serge OR's winter service dress tunic with a pair of pleated breast patch pockets and a pair of internal waist pockets. The pockets have flaps, those on the breast being secured by black plastic buttons. A pair of blue and white embroidered RAAF pilot's wings are placed above the...

RELAWM34728.001

RAAF winter service dress trousers : Flight Sergeant R H Middleton VC, 149 Squadron RAF

RAAF blue wool serge OR's winter service dress trousers with a slash pocket in each side seam and a five button fly secured with black plastic buttons. The waist is secured by a plastic button of larger size. Six buttons are placed around the outside waist to carry braces; four are of black...

RELAWM34728.002

RAAF forage cap : Flight Sergeant R H Middleton, 149 Squadron RAF

RAAF blue Other Ranks' woollen forage cap with oxidised brass RAAF badge on left hand side. The two buttons at the front are made of black plastic. The cap is lined with black cotton fabric. An oval shaped white cotton maker's label is sewn inside the left hand side.

RELAWM34728.003

Defence Medal : Flight Sergeant R H Middleton RAAF, 149 Squadron RAF

Defence Medal. Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

REL/03994.003

Air Crew Europe Star : Flight Sergeant R H Middleton RAAF, 149 Squadron RAF

Air Crew Europe Star. Impressed reverse with recipient's details.

REL/03994.002

1939-45 Star : Flight Sergeant R H Middleton RAAF, 149 Squadron RAF

1939-45 Star. Impressed reverse with recipient's details.

REL/03994.001

Australia Service Medal : Flight Sergeant R H Middleton RAAF, 149 Squadron RAF

Australia Service Medal. Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

REL/03994.005

British War Medal 1939-45 : Flight Sergeant R H Middleton RAAF, 149 Squadron RAF

British War Medal 1939-45. Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

REL/03994.004

Victoria Cross : Flight Sergeant R H Middleton RAAF, 149 Squadron, RAF

Victoria Cross. Engraved reverse suspender and cross with recipient's details and date of action.

REL/03886.001

Timeline

Date of birth 1916-07-22 Waverley, NSW.
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1940-10-14 Enlisted in the RAAF under the Empire Air Training Scheme.
Other 1941-09 Posted to Britain.
Date promoted 1941-12 Promoted to flight sergeant.
Other units 1942-02 Was appointed to No 149 Squadron, Royal Air Force. In the next few months he acted as a second pilot in raids against Ruhr.
Date promoted 1942-07 Appointed to position of first pilot.
Other 1942-07-31 Captained an aircraft for the first time in a raid against Dusseldorf.
Other 1942-11-07 Flew in a raid on Genoa.
Other 1942-11-20 Flew in a raid targeting the Royal Arsenal at Turin.
Date of honour or award 1942-11-28 - 1942-11-29 Awarded Victoria Cross posthumously for action at Turin, Italy whilst serving with RAAF attached to No 149 Squadron, 3 Group, Bomber Command, RAF as a flight sergeant. Although the citation of his Victoria Cross shows his rank as flight sergeant, his commission as a pilot officer was back dated to the 15th November 1942. After a night raid on Turin Middleton's aircraft was damaged and low on fuel. Middleton and his second pilot were also severely wounded. Despite his diminishing strength Middleton made the decision to head for the English coast, where five of his crew were able to parachute to safety. Middleton, however, and two of his crew did not survive. Middleton died trying to ensure the safety of his crew.
Date of death 1942-11-29 Died as the result of a plane crash in the English Channel.
Date of burial 1943-02-05 Middleton was washed ashore at Shakespeare Beach, Dover, on 1 February 1943. He was buried with full military honours in the churchyard of St John's, Beck Row, Suffolk.