German RAF Fighter Pilot in WWII

He was born Klaus Hugo Adam in Berlin, Germany in 1922 into an upper-middle-class Jewish household.

“Sir Ken was the only known German fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force during WW2,” said Helen Fry, author of the book, Churchill’s German Army.

Hawker Typhoon

Hawker Typhoon (courtesy of

“He first served in the only unit of the British army open to him but this was his war and he wanted to fight properly. He sent off application after application to the RAF but was turned down. Then during training in the Pioneer Corps he was seen courting the Commanding Officer’s daughter on the promenade of a Victorian seaside town when he should have been doing drill practice. He was hauled before the Commanding Officer and asked to send off an application to the RAF again. Two weeks later he was sent several hundred miles away to Scotland to train as a pilot. He succeeded where other refugee-soldiers failed to fulfill their dreams of being a pilot.”

Sir Ken Adams

German-born Adam flew Typhoon fighter-bombers on low-level strikes across northern France
(courtesy of The Telegraph)

After training on Tiger Moth (‘30s-era biplanes) in Scotland, Adam, like many British pilots was sent to Canada and the United States for additional special fighter pilot training before joining the 609 Squadron a year later. Adam flew a Hawker Typhoon, one of the war’s fastest and most powerful fighter planes. Heavily armed with air-to-ground rockets and 20 mm cannons, Adam’s squadron provided close support for the advancing British army.

“After my squadron attacked the Falaise Gap in Normandy, my commanding officer said to me, ‘Ken, if you want to see the damage that has been done, I’ll let you go on the ground in a truck.’ And I went. It was something I’ve never forgotten. The smell of dead animals was terrible–there were dead horses (I had no idea the Germans were using so many horses) and cows. As a single fighter pilot, you never really got in much contact with what was going on the ground. For the first time being on a battlefield like Falaise, for the first time was a shock to the system. And to be in close touch for the first time with the bodies of dead SS soldiers, and so on was an experience I’ve never forgotten. You just couldn’t get rid of the smell.”

Adam demobilized from military service in 1947 and got a job, first as a draughtsman at Twickenham Film Studios. He worked in the art department on the films, Captain Horatio Hornblower, The Crimson Pirate, The Master of Ballantrae, and Helen of Troy, all boat movies.  So, in an effort to avoid being pigeonholed as a naval designer, Adam caught the attention of industry executives with his design work on Ben Hur and Around the World in 80 Days.  Later, In 1962 he was hired as production designer on the first James Bond film, Dr. No. Adam continued to put his inimitable stamp on the Bond films Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds are Forever, The Spy Who Loved Me, and Moonraker—his last in the series. 

(Excerpts from article By: Steven Karras Web2Carz Staff Writer Published: November 10th, 2012)

Read the remainder of Sir Ken’s story at the Web2Carz original publication here >>

Watch Typhoon Video: Hawker Typhoon vs. Hawker Tempest – Warbird Recognition Video >>