Spitfire Association Logo

FLTLT Edward Sly 402810


Squadron/s452 SQN
457 SQN
450 SQN
Rank On Discharge/Death Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT)
Date of Birth27 Apr 1918
Date of Enlistment04 Oct 1940
Contributing Author/sAndrew Stackpool and Robert Hamilton

The adage that "an old dog can't be taught new tricks" was not the case for FLTLT Ted Sly (ret'd) on his 90th birthday when he flew solo for the first time since stepping out of his Spitfire at the end of World War II. He has subsequently flown several times.

Late in 2007, Mr. Sly visited his local doctor for an annual medical check-up and was informed (hat he had the reflexes of a man decades younger. He decided to take to the skies again and contacted a local flying school. Three months and several hours later, he achieved his second solo flight; 67 years after his first.

He said it "was terrific" to be flying again.

Edward Sly was born on April 27, 1918, in Oxford, UK. His family returned to Australia in 1919. After leaving school in 1933, he began a career with a bank and then as a jackeroo.

With the outbreak of war, on October 14, 1940, he enlisted in the RAAF. He was taken up in the Empire Air Training Scheme and, promoted to SGT, posted to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) for his flying training. After soloing, he was promoted to PLTOFF and posted to Canada for more advanced training.

After arriving in the UK at the end of 1941, he soloed on Spitfires and was posted to 452SQN in the UK, then to 450SQN flying Kittyhawks in the Middle East and then to 92SQN (RAF), again flying Spitfires.

Ted flew with another author, Paul Brickhill (Reach for the Sky) and Ted tells the story that Paul was a far better writer than he was a pilot. He can well remember Brickhill being shot down in North Africa and eventually being interned by the Jerries. While all this was happening Ted was circling far above in his Spitfire hoping that Paul would be rescued on crash landing, by the Allies, alas this was not to be. And with a heavy heart Ted turned away when he saw a German Tank crew collar the English pilot.

A story about our side doing the same thing was told by Ted. A German fighter pilot in a Spitfire. Neville Duke had shot down the German plane; the pilot had bailed out and was picked up by the British Army police who had witnessed the action, with the rule that any interrogation of the pilot was to take place as soon as captured, when the pilot was in a state of shock. The Desert Police were very appreciative of our operations and did us a favour when I placed the German pilot in the cockpit of the Spitfire. I had some armed airmen handy just in case of any attempt by the German pilot to start up and take off.

In 1944, he posted back to Australia and joined 457 SQN - the famous "Grey Nurses" (he was responsible for the shark's teeth that adorned its Spitfires). He saw little combat action against Japanese aircraft but was involved in several ground attack operations. He flew his last mission in July, 1945, and discharged in February, 1946.

Mr. Sly decided not to continue flying. Nevertheless, he retained a keen interest in all matters aviation.

He started back on the land, firstly in NSW, then in the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu. In 1975, he returned to northern NSW for some years, before retiring to Ballina.

Ted Sly's last venture occurred in 1996, when, at a meeting of the Spitfire Association, a group of former pilots decided to raise money for a 'living memorial' to the memory of all those who flew Spitfires. As a result, in 1998, the Spitfire Memorial Defence Fellowship was launched at ADFA. The Fellowship grant was to be given to support (under stringent selection criteria) study in Defence related subjects at the University of New South Wales or the Academy.

“This has been a great achievement of Ted’s; as the memory of the Spitfire aircraft and the men who served will be remembered long after the last man has faded away., said Spitfire Association Secretary Steve McGregor.

For further reading on Ted Sly, see his book “The Luck of the Draw”, BA Printing and Publishing Services


Campaign Stars
1939-45 Star, Africa Star and Clasp, Pacific Star, Italy Star

War Medals
Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-45

Beside the Grey Nurse Spitfire, Darwin

German Pilot standing in Spitfire Cockpit, North Africa

Ted Sly at age 90

Learn more about the squadron/s in which Edward served.

We do our very best to make sure the information in the stories we share is correct. These stories are maintained to show our respect for the pilots, ground crew, design engineers and all who were involved with the Spitfire. In many cases, the information has been collected from the personal interactions between our members and the pilots and crew featured, and on many occasions, this process happened much later in the veterans' lives. If you believe anything on our site is not historically accurate, we welcome the additional stories, records and photos needed to help us correct the record. We thank you for your understanding.