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Denis Buist (1921-1944), Flight Sergeant (Pilot), 89 Squadron

Denis or "Den", born on 29 Apr 1921, was the eldest son of Fred and Ethel.

In 1937, at the age of 16, he joined the RAF as a "Halton Apprentice". Entrance to the scheme involved a highly competitive exam, intelligence and aptitude tests, and medical examinations. Admittance was limited exclusively to males between the ages of 15 and 17½ and the Royal Air Force assumed legal guardianship of the boys in loco parentis.

Training was a three-year course, although this was changed briefly to two years for some apprentice entries during the Second World War. Training took place at the No. 1 School of Technical Training, RAF Halton, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire over five and a half days a week, and consisted of both academic and practical training. In addition, basic military training was given.

Following completion of his apprenticeship, Den joined 109 Squadron (based at Boscombe Down at the time) as an Aircraft Fitter in 1940 before undertaking pilot training from 1942-43.

Pilot training changed during the war from 34 weeks in 1941 to 51-53 weeks by 1944. In 1941 it would have consisted of: Initial Training School (8 weeks), Elementary Flying Training School (10 weeks), Service Flying Training School (16 weeks), "Wings", Operational Training Unit (4-6 weeks). By 1944 it had changed to: Initial Training School (17 weeks), Elementary Flying Training School (10 weeks), Service Flying Training School (20 weeks), "Wings", Advanced Training (14-16 weeks for fighters). We do not know how long Den's training was but assume that it was probably about 52 weeks.

His pilot training took place at No. 4 British Flying Training School (BFTS), Falcon Field, 4800 Falcon Drive, Mesa, AZ 85215 in the USA. He was first in the "Wings" examination and graduated on 19 Feb 1943.

Denis Buist (about 1943)
RAF Transport Command was established on 25 March 1943 by the renaming of RAF Ferry Command and was responsible for ferrying planes from factories to operational units.

Den converted onto the Bristol Beaufighter and after a number of ferry flights was posted to 89 Squadron.

From Jun-Aug 1944, 89 Squadron was based at Vavuniya, Sri Lanka. From 18 Aug 1944 it was based at Baigachi, West Bengal, India.

At the time, the squadron was equipped with the Bristol Beaufighter Mark VIF, a night fighter equipped with Airborne Interception (AI) Mark VIII radar. The latter was the first operational microwave-frequency air-to-air radar.

Den had joined 89 Sq. by July 1944, presumably in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka. On 21 Sep he was part of a detachment of three aircraft sent from Baigachi to Chittagong.

He died about 18:00 on 14 October. According to the squadron's operations report, he "...aborted very late for some unexplained reason, and the aircraft over-ran the runway to drop 18 feet [6 metres], on its back in a padi field. FS Buist, a first-class pilot, strapped to his seat, was drowned before rescuers could get to him. 'Tiny' Watts suffered slight injuries."

Den Buist was buried the following day in Chittagong Civil Cemetery. On 16 Feb 1946 his remains were re-buried in the Chittagong War Cemetery now maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Denis Buist memorial in Chittagong War Cemetery

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