Old Catton spy and radar specialist who broke the sound barrier over London dies aged 93

Robert Jefferies at RAF Coltishall in the early 1940s. Picture: Courtsey of Robert Jefferies

Robert Jefferies at RAF Coltishall in the early 1940s. Picture: Courtsey of Robert Jefferies - Credit: Courtsey of Robert Jefferies

On July 4 1954 a prototype Gloster Javelin woke the city of London by breaking the sound barrier for the first and only time, disproving media claims it couldn't be done.

left to right - Squadron Leader DWH Smith, Flt Lt Peter Varley, Geoff Worrall (Master air pilot), un

left to right - Squadron Leader DWH Smith, Flt Lt Peter Varley, Geoff Worrall (Master air pilot), unknown, Flt Lt Bob Jefferies, Wing Commander Dicky Martin. Picture: Courtsey of Robert Jefferies - Credit: Courtsey of Robert Jefferies

One of the crew that day was Wing Commander Robert Jefferies, an Old Catton resident of over 50 years who died on Valentine's Day.

Described as 'an air force man through and through,' Wg Cdr Jefferies was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air in 1954 and 1963, the Air Force Cross in 1957, and a Military OBE in 1974. He also had various Campaign Medals including night fighters over Europe 1944-1945.

'He used to say he had been to Germany countless times but had never set foot in the place,' said son Richard, 63.

Most of his flying career was spent in the night fighters, including Mosquitos from RAF Coltishall.

Official air force photograph of Robert Jefferies in the 1970s. Picture: Courtsey of Robert Jefferie

Official air force photograph of Robert Jefferies in the 1970s. Picture: Courtsey of Robert Jefferies - Credit: Courtsey of Robert Jefferies


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From 1944 to 1947 he was with 25 Squadron at Trimley Heath and Neatishead Ground Controlled Interception and from 1947 to 1952 with 141 Squadron .

Between 1954 and 1957 as the Fighter Command Liaison Officer for the Javelin Project with the Gloster Aircraft Company he ejected from a mid air collision from which he was the only survivor. He also caused headlines around the country when he broke the sound barrier over London.

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'The Daily Express said the Javelin could never go supersonic, and they decided to prove them wrong, so they got up and did it in the middle of the night,' added Richard. 'They went up somewhere over Oxford and took a long run at it.'

From 1962 until his retirement in 1975 he was associated with several classified radar and intelligence led projects including the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System, the joint US-UK Surveillance System, Cobra Mist and Norad which involved deployment to the USA with the MoD.

Wg Cdr Jefferies, survived by his two sons Michael and Richard, passed away at Halsey House in Cromer on February 14, aged 93.

The funeral will be at St Margarets, Old Catton on February 27 at 2.30pm.

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