Brigadier Bob Carr
Brigadier Bob Carr, who has died aged 93, was among a small number of soldiers to be awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross during the Second World War.
6:25PM BST 04 Jun 2013
Carr volunteered to fly single-engine aircraft such as Austers. As a pilot and gunner officer, he was able to overfly enemy territory and see what was invisible to forward observation officers. He could call for and control effective artillery fire when enemy formations believed that they were securely concealed.
Carr flew wartime sorties as a member of No 654 (AOP) Squadron RAF. As an Air Observation Pilot, he was a prime target for the enemy, who did all that they could to shoot him down; the survival rate of airmen like him was poor.
In the autumn and winter of 1943-44, in operations at Salerno and Monte Camino, Carr completed many hazardous sorties, often battling fatigue, flying at low altitudes over difficult country, observing and reporting the fire against enemy positions while trying to avoid presenting a target to the enemy gunners. His courage and tenacity was recognised with the award — unusual for a soldier — of a DFC.
Robert Michael Carr was born in London on March 5 1920 and educated at Marlborough. Always known as Bob, he was an officer cadet at Woolwich and commissioned into the Royal Artillery in July 1939.
In the early stages of the war, an enthusiastic amateur pilot, Major Charles Bazeley, had pressed the case for spotter pilots in light aircraft, arguing that they would have a better chance of survival than when manning static balloons as air observation posts for artillery.
There were many in the RAF who had reservations because the aircraft were unarmed and, as they had to fly at low levels, were vulnerable to anti-aircraft and small arms fire. Six gunner subalterns were selected to test Bazeley’s theory. One of them, Terry Willett, was subsequently given the task of forming No 654 Squadron and became Carr’s commanding officer.
Carr’s squadron in the Italian campaign was equipped with Austers and consisted of three flights which supported, among others, 10th British Corps, 1st Canadian Corps and the Polish Corps. His tasks expanded beyond fire control and observation to information gathering and the dangerous business of tank hunting.
For two years after the end of the war Carr was a staff officer with Burma Command. He trained as a parachutist and, in the early 1950s, served in Egypt with 33 Airborne Field Regiment.
Carr commanded a battery of 96th Parachute Field Battery RA from 1956 to 1958 and then 41st Light Parachute Light Battery RA. A move to the War Office as Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General was followed, in 1961, by command of 45th Field Regiment RA.
He was then posted to the Imperial Defence College as one of the instructing staff. In 1965 he was promoted to brigadier and posted to Western Command as Commander Royal Artillery Lancashire and Cheshire Division in North-West District. The seven artillery regiments, all TA and with proud histories and traditions, were eventually reduced to one by cuts in the defence budget. Carr needed all his patience and tact in the negotiations to decide what could be saved and what had to go.
A good leader, thorough planner, and a highly experienced professional, he was appointed MBE during his career and retired from the Army in 1968.
He worked for a number of years for Hambro’s Bank in London and Essex. After settling in Hampshire, he was treasurer of his local Conservative Association and as a church warden; he was an enthusiastic fisherman. When watching school matches and plays, he was highly partisan and never ceased to congratulate his children and grandchildren for being the best performers regardless of the reality.
Bob Carr married, in 1963, Amabel Yorke, who survives him with their son and daughter.
Brigadier Bob Carr, born March 5 1920, died April 11 2013