In 1934 he was posted to India to serve in the Indian Wing on the North West Frontier. He was promoted Squadron Leader in 1935 and was awarded his first DSO for operations in Waziristan. He was further promoted in 1938 to Wing Commander. After five years service he returned to Britain in 1939. On the outbreak of the Second World War Embry was Commanding Officer of No 107 Squadron flying the Bristol Blenheim bomber.
After two months sick leave Embry was posted to No. 6 Group as Senior Air Staff Officer in the rank of Group Captain. After only three weeks he was offered command of a night-fighter wing in Fighter Command, which was accepted, although he reverted to the rank of Wing Commander. The wing disbanded in December 1940 and Embry became AOC RAF Wittering returning to the rank of Group Captain in March 1941. Embry kept his hand in operationally by flying radar equipped night-fighters with No. 25 squadron. In July 1941 Embry was given the ceremonial title of an Air Aide-de-Camp to the King. and was Mentioned in Despatches in September.
In October 1941 he was seconded to the Desert Air Force as an adviser and saw action in the Desert War.
Embry returned to Britain in March 1942 and served as AOC Wittering again and as AOC 10 Group, Fighter Command. In June he was again Mentioned in Despatches but he was passed over as the prime candidate for leading Bomber Command's newly formed Pathfinder Force in July 1942 before being given command of No 2 Group Bomber Command, which was about to join the 2nd Tactical Air Force, in June 1943. Although he was now an Air Vice Marshal, Embry continued to fly on operations where possible, piloting each type of light bomber in his command to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of the tools available to his aircrews. He usually flew as a 'wingman' in a formation, flying under the name of "Wing Commander Smith". This hands-on approach ensured Embry was worshipped by the men under his command, although his frank utterly honest criticisms made few friends within the Air Ministry.
He pushed fervently for 2 Group's re-equipment with the Mosquito FB VI, which became the highly potent workhorse of the Group by 1944. By October 1943 Embry's efforts had made 2 Group a highly effective weapon, with bombing accuracy and serviceability among the best in the Allied Air Forces. The group's contribution to the war effort, such as the bombing of V-1 launch sites in France and the anti-transportation offensive prior to D-Day was arguably decisive. In December 1944 he was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath.
Embry's Mosquitoes also undertook specialist precision bombing operations such as the attack on Amiens jail, and in 1945 on Gestapo headquarters in Aarhus, Copenhagen and Odense. For "...(pressing) home his attacks with a skill and gallantry in keeping with his outstanding reputation.." in the latter three operations he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was also honoured after the war by the Danish Government for his part in these operations, being awarded the Order of Dannebrog, Commander 1st Class. On 20 July 1945 he was awarded a third bar to his DSO. Other nations to honour Embry included the Netherlands (Order of Orange Nassau, Grand Officer) and France (Croix de Guerre, Légion d'honneur, Croix de Commandeur)
After the war Embry was appointed Commander-in-Chief of Allied Air Forces Central Europe. He was Commander-in-Chief Fighter Command from 1949 to 1953. His outspoken criticism of the NATO chain of command and organisation framework ensured however that he was retired early from the Royal Air Force in 1956.
In March 1956, accompanied by his wife Hope, he emigrated to Western Australia and began a new life as a sheep farmer.
"He was both charming and rude, prejudiced and broad-minded, pliable and obstinate, dedicated and human." (Group Captain Peter Wykeham, No 2 Group 1944-45)
On 19 April 2007 Spink auctioned the remarkable and unique medal group of Air Chief Marshal Sir Basil Embry, selling for £155,350 to Michael Naxton, an agent.
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