Friday 18 January 2013

Kenneth Mathew Rogers (1922-2001)

By Mitch Stirling

A few years ago I had the great pleasure of inviting Ken Rogers of Agricair to demonstrate a Piper Pawnee
in action to a group of young schoolboys from Ruzawi school, Marandellas. The  idea was that my good friend John House and I would assemble a group of young lads in a  suitable open space and, at a pre-determined time, a Pawnee from Charles Prince Airport would arrive and 'do its thing'. 

All was ready... with boys anxiously waiting, eyes fixed to the heavens. Suddenly, a Pawnee appeared from behind a line of nearby gum trees and raced towards us at 'tallest schoolboy' height. "DUCK!" was heard in unison above the roar of a 235 Lycoming engine as Ken Rogers swooped down and drenched the lot of us with a spray of water. You can imagine the chaos with boys running for cover, only to be outrun by John House and me!

Later, after Ken had carried out a display of precision flying (poetry in motion) we collected him from the farm airstrip where he had landed and brought him back to school for a de-brief and a short lecture to the lads about aerial application of fertilizer and the dangers of army worm and snout beetle... and a well-deserved 'cuppa'. What expressions of complete admiration there were on the faces of those lads as they listened to this softly spoken, modest man. And in particular when they heard that many of his old buddies were memorialized in the Honours' Board inside their school chapel from the days when he was a Spitfire pilot with 64 Squadron RAF and a Hawker Typhoon pilot with 266 (Rhodesia) Squadron during the Second World War.

 Dougal Drummond (in picture) has his name on that Board - the grandson of Lord Malvern. He is listed as killed in action 15/2/44 N Brittany.

On that fateful day Ken's log book records a typical high-speed, low-level 'Rodeo' mission. The attack was on an airfield in occupied France... a so called 'tip and run'. The Squadron Leader on this occasion couldn't start his temperamental 2 000hp Napier Sabre engine, so seven Typhoons took-off led by Flying Officer Lucas. But, soon after crossing the French coast at close to 400 mph in poor visibility, they ran into a wall of metal as intense German ack-ack ripped into them. In a flash a large hole appeared in the rudder of the leader's aircraft. Then Wally Mollett was heard shouting on the R/T that he was hit but had climbed high enough to bale out or force-land. Flying Officer Dennis Miller's aircraft caught fire and crashed and Sergeant Dougal Drummond went down in flames. Pilot Officers Scott-Eadie and Ken Rogers took evasive action and, apart from hitting tree tops, escaped any serious damage. The remains of the formation limped back to base on the south coast of England near Plymouth at zero feet.

 Amazingly, Wally appeared 12 days later. He had belly-landed in a field south of Morlaix and been picked up by the French Resistance.
    Wally Mollett's belly landing.

The attrition rate in the Typhoon squadrons was fearful and of the thirteen pilots in this  photograph, six were killed. In the space of four years, 21 young men of 266 ( Rhodesia) Squadron RAF lost their lives. The squadron pilots rotated in 'dead men's shoes'. Fortunately  Ken was not one of them.

A meeting of old friends and aviators... fellow Spitfire pilots. No introduction needed!

Ken Rogers was an Umtali boy, schooled at Prince Edward. He began ground-training at No 26 EFTS (Guinea Fowl) in November 1940 and then No 20 SFTS (Cranborne) until July 1941. His RAF Ground Training Certificate states: 'Above average in all subjects except Navigation which he passed on the second attempt. Flying ability above average. Capable and resourceful, essentially a fighter pilot. Has sense of discipline and is efficient. Requires steadying down.'

 Thanks to Stan Rogers for some wonderful photographs and memories of his late father. Stan suggests, knowing his Dad, he probably flunked Navigation on purpose because that would eliminate him from bomber crew selection... he wanted fighters!

 Rest in Peace Ken Rogers.
 Rhodesians everywhere salute you 'Stabber in the Sky'

Thanks to Mitch for sharing this story with ORAFs.
Thanks to Stan Rogers for the use of his photographs.


Comments are always welcome, please either enter them below as a comment or mail them to Eddy Norris at

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Ref. Rhodesia Aviation

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At 17 February 2014 at 08:02 , Blogger Unknown said...

One can see where Stan got his passion for aircraft - Thanks Mitch, great blog - Sad to be reading this on the day of Stan's funeral

At 7 January 2017 at 18:31 , Blogger kimgruk said...

Nice to see this. Thanks. Ian


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