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Battle of Britain Beaufighter

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Beaufighter. By: Jay Ashurst, Signed by: John Cunningham

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Beaufighter. By: Jay Ashurst, Signed by: John Cunningham

Group Captain John "Cat's Eyes" Cunningham CBE DSO** DFC* (27 July 1917 – 21 July 2002), was a British Royal Air Force night fighter ace during World War II and a test pilot, both before and after the war. He was credited with 20 kills, of which 19 were claimed at night.

At the outbreak of World War II, Cunningham joined the Royal Air Force. Flying first Blenheims and then the powerful Bristol Beaufighter with No. 604 Squadron RAF.

Cunningham's first "kill" came on 19 November 1940 when, over the coast of Sussex, he shot down a Junkers Ju 88. He then downed two Heinkel 111 bombers and was awarded the DFC with bar.

By the end of the Blitz in May 1941 he had become the most famous night fighter pilot, successfully claiming 14 night raiders using airborne interception – the aircraft version of what later became known as radar. Most of his victories were achieved with Squadron Leader Jimmy Rawnsley as his radar operator, who later wrote the book Night Fighter detailing their exploits.

On 8 April 1942 he destroyed two bombers during the same sortie and a week later claimed three more kills which earned his first DSO.

Following the downing of his sixteenth kill in July 1942, Cunningham received the second bar award to the DSO. Whilst a Wing Commander with No. 85 Squadron RAF flying a Mosquito he claimed his twentieth and last wartime kill which earned him his third DSO in March 1944.

Cunningham's nickname of Cat's Eyes came from British propaganda explanations to cover up the use of airborne interception. It was claimed a special group of British pilots ate carrots for many years to develop superior night vision. Cunningham himself, a self-effacing and modest individual, detested this nickname.[3]

Later serving as Commanding Officer of No. 85 Squadron RAF in 1943–44 flying Mosquitoes, Cunningham survived the war as a Group Captain with 20 claims.

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Battle of Britain Beaufighter

Battle of Britain Beaufighter

Beaufighter. By: Jay Ashurst, Signed by: John Cunningham

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