Pilot Officer George Furniss – 616 Squadron
George Furniss was born in Sheffield in 1924, the middle child of 5 surviving boys. After leaving grammar school, he joined the Air Force Receiving Unit in London on 1st February 1943. His enthusiasm and aptitude for flying meant he progressed through the ranks and soon became a proficient pilot, pilot navigator and later an instructor.
He trained with the Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) in Perth, Scotland and then he moved to South Africa. He was stationed in Mount Hampden progressing to the Service Flying Training School (SFTS) in Heany and the Central Flying School, Norton. The Service Flying Training School provided advanced training for pilots, including fighter and multi-engined aircraft. George flew the Airspeed Oxford, Harvard and Fairchild Cornell. He was based in Bulawayo, Cape Town and Rhodesia during 1944-45 returning to the UK in September 1945 when he was based at RAF Eastchurch, RAF Pembrey and RAF Hornchurch. In August 1946, he was demobbed.
In April 1948, George joined the Reserve Flying School at Doncaster where he flew the De Havilland 82A and Percival Prentice. In November 1951, he joined the Royal Auxiliary Airforce 616 Squadron at RAF Finningley. This was the first operational RAF unit to fly jets, namely the Gloster Meteors which were equipped with Rolls Royce Derwent engines.
During the week, George worked as a Steelworks Manager in Sheffield but at the weekend, he fulfilled his great love of flying and regularly flew the Gloster Meteor and Harvard from RAF Finningley. These pilots became known as the “Weekend Flyers”. He would fly every weekend where possible and his love was for the Meteor jet. He would regularly fly aerobatics, rat and terrier exercises and practise nightime flying. George would also fly gliders from the No. 24 Gliding School, Sheffield and entered the British National Gliding Contests in 1950 at Great Hucklow, Derbyshire.
On 1st August 1953, George was awarded a commission with the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. Sadly, it was on a training exercise from RAF Wymeswold on Sunday, 27th September 1953 that his Gloster Meteor 8 (WE912) caught fire over Spalding, Lincolnshire. George, now a Pilot Officer, successfully manoeuvred his fire-stricken Meteor aircraft away from the built up area of Spalding town, and was forced to eject from the aircraft at too low an altitude to ensure his own survival. George was killed instantly. It was recognised that by sacrificing his own life, he saved the lives of many others. He was 29 years old.
George left a wife of 4 years, Margaret and 12 month old twin daughters, Sheila and Gillian.
Sheila M Reynolds and Gillian M Akers