David Coke

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David Arthur Coke
Born 4 December 1915 (1915-12-04)
Norfolk, England, UK
Died 9 December 1941 (1941-12-10) (aged 26)
Killed in action, Libya
Buried at Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma, Libya
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Air Force
Years of service 1939–1941
Rank Flight lieutenant
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Distinguished Flying Cross

The Honourable David Arthur Coke DFC, (/ˈkʊk/ KUUK;[nb 1] 4 December 1915 – 9 December 1941) was a flight lieutenant in the Royal Air Force Reserve during the Second World War, and is considered a flying ace, being credited with 2 destroyed, 2 probables and 2 damaged.[1] He was known in popular culture for his friendship with the author Roald Dahl while serving in the Royal Air Force.[2]


The second son of Thomas Coke, 4th Earl of Leicester and Marion Gertrude (née Trefusis), he was godson of King Edward VIII. He was a graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge,[3]

World War II

Coke joined the RAFVR in June 1939 and attended 5 OTU in April 1940. He was promoted to the rank of acting pilot officer on 3 September 1940.[4] By August 1940 he flew a Hawker Hurricane with No. 257 Squadron RAF during the Battle of Britain as a pilot officer. He was involved in an incident on 12 August 1940 when his Hurricane (P3776) was badly shot up over the English Channel off Portsmouth. His finger was amputated and the aircraft was repaired and used again.[5] Posted to 46 Squadron in December 1940, Coke was then promoted to flying officer.[6]

He went on to fight in the Balkans Campaign with No. 33 Squadron and the Syrian campaign with No. 80 Squadron RAF. During this period, he became great friends with famed author Roald Dahl, as detailed in Dahl's autobiography Going Solo.[2]

While serving in Libya, Coke was awarded the DFC for his work in an attack on enemy transport and for his leadership as a flight lieutenant[7]

Flight Lieutenant The Hon. David Arthur COKE (73042), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 80 Squadron (since missing).
This officer participated in an attack on enemy transport on the El-Adem-Acroma road one day in November, 1941, in which a large number of vehicles, tanks and mechanised transport were bombed and machine-gunned. The damage inflicted played a very large part in the blocking of the road. By his skill and leadership, Flight Lieutenant Coke contributed materially to the success achieved. In addition to the low flying machine-gunning operations which have been carried out, Flight Lieutenant Coke has led the squadron with great success in air combat. During an engagement 2 days later, the squadron shared in the destruction of 5 Messerschmitt 109's.

He was killed in action by enemy Bf 109s in Acroma, Cyrenaica, Africa on Tuesday 9 December 1941, aged 26, and buried at Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma, Libya (Ref. B.A. 3. B. 18).[8][9]


  1. The family name was pronounced in the same way as the name "Cook"


  1. Those Other Eagles by C. Shores (2004), p. 111.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Roald Dahl (2 February 2012). Going Solo. Penguin Books Limited. ISBN 978-0-14-196533-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Burke's Peerage, 1939 ("Leicester").
  4. The London Gazette: no. 34986. p. 6399. 5 November 1940. Retrieved 2009-02-18.
  5. http://www.the-battle-of-britain.co.uk/pilots/Co-pilots.html#CokeDA
  6. The London Gazette: no. 35335. p. 6376. 4 November 1941. Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  7. The London Gazette: no. 34986. p. 7298. 5 November 1940. Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  8. Profile, roll-of-honour.com; accessed 5 April 2014.
  9. Profile, cwgc.org; accessed 5 April 2014.


  • Profile, thepeerage.com; accessed 5 April 2014.