1913 – 1944
WW2 Photo reconnaissance pilot
‘The most valuable pilot in the RAF’ – Marshall of the Royal Air Force Lord Tedder
Wing Commander Adrian Warburton (known to all as Warby) was one of the most highly decorated pilots of WW2. Fearless in the air, he won fame in Malta for his invaluable photo reconnaissance work at Tarranto, Sicily and North Africa. So invaluable that he was ordered not to make detours to shoot down enemy planes, yet he shot down nine. Earlier he had been below-average misfit with 22 Squadron of Coastal Command. Sent to Malta to avoid trouble in the UK, and guided by an understanding Australian, Warby quickly became famous. Known at first as a loner, he was given his head by AOC Air Vice Marshal Hugh Pugh Lloyd. The spectacular results he achieved enabled his unconventional behaviour to be overlooked. With his glamorous girl friend Christina, the two became part of Malta’s legend, symbols of the Islands resistance. Still in Malta, Warby later became CO of 69 and then 683 PR Squadron.
After contributing greatly to the success of the Sicily landings, he was working closely with the Americans with whom he got on so well, as he did with the Canadians and South Africans. He was grounded after a serious car accident, but thanks to his friendship with Colonel Elliot Roosevelt, the US President’s son, he took up a liaison job with the US PR Groups at Mount Farm. On 12th April 1944 Warburton departed in an American aircraft on an unusual mission over Europe, and disappeared without trace. The subsequent discovery of his remains at Lechfeld in Germany, some 60 years later, is in itself a story on its own. On May 14th 2003, he was finally laid to rest with full military honours at Durnbach cemetery. His widow, along with surviving members of his squadrons was present to witness the emotional event.