TWIN ENGINE AIRCRAFT PILOT
Charilaos Karvelis was born in Egypt in Cairo on April 6, 1923, and his parents, Nestor and Kallirroe came from Lemnos. He studied at the Frères des écoles Chrétiennes in Cairo. During World War II he joined the Royal Hellenic Air Force (RHAF) which operated in the Middle East under the umbrella of the RAF (Royal Air Force). It was initially presented at the RHAF training center in Gaza on August 13, 1942, which was the gathering point for both airmen fleeing Greece and diaspora Greeks who wanted to join the air force. He remained there until February 10, 1943, and after his basic military training, he was selected for pilot training. The initial reception of cadet pilots took place at Hillside Camp, later called Cranborne, in Southern Rhodesia where the Initial Training Wing (ITW) training course usually lasted 6 weeks. The young Greek Egyptian was presented on February 23, 1943, and remained there until July 9, 1943. The next day he was transferred to Mount Hampden for his initial flight training at No. 28 EFTS (Elementary Flight School) with DH.82 Tiger Moth where it would be decided if he was fit to become a pilot. His first flight took place on July 12, 1943, with instructor F/O Michopoulos (RHAF) on DH.82A 8108. At this school, the Greek cadets had instructors from both the RHAF and RAF, but Michopoulos had taken over Karvelis' guidance. After thirteen hours and thirty minutes and 22 sorties, Charilaos flew his first solo on August 4 with DH.82A 8108, preceded two days earlier by the pre-solo evaluation by Squadron Leader Flett, with DH.82A 7670. After 84 hours and 20 minutes of flying to his credit, including 36 1/2 hours alone, he completed his training at No. 28 EFTS. The final evaluation was completed on 11 September with the position of instructor on DH.82A 679 being occupied by Major (I) Jeffrey. A day earlier, he had flown his first solo at night, lasting 15 minutes, manning DH.82A 7665. During his stay at Mount Hampden, apart from Lieutenant Michopoulos, he flew with two more RHAF instructors, F/O Stamatelatos and F/Lt Dimitriadis, while he also completed 5 hours and 45 minutes of night flights.
On September 19, he returned to Hillside Camp where he remained until the end of October, before continuing his training at No. 23 SFTS at Heany, Bulawayo, on October 23, 1943. His placement there suggested that Karvelis would continue his career in multi-engine planes rather than fighters. Indeed, on the 25th of the month, the young pilot flies for the first time with the twin-engine Oxford P6867 and instructor F/O Wadhams. Until November 9, he flew eight more sorties with various instructors including Squadron Leader Mitsakos. On the 10th, after being evaluated first by Fl.Lt. Saxby flew his solo with the Oxford V3336. Until March 15, 1944, when he finished his training at No. 23 SFTS, Karvelis completed 155 hours and 15 minutes of daytime flights and 21 hours and 20 minutes of night flying, of which about 70 and 10 were solos. The training sorties except for operating the plane, making the basic maneuvers, and following the procedures consisting also of low-altitude flights, instrument flights, long-haul flights, and bombardment training flights from inside and low. There were also many hours of practice on the Link simulator and continuous evaluations by its instructors, including many RHAF Officers such as Kyriazis, Chandrinos, Evangelinos, and F/O Kyrtatos. At the end of November 1944, he was transferred to No. 70 OTU where he underwent basic training in Baltimore's systems, flying about 14 hours with them, but without being evaluated as an operator. He returned to flying on 30 May 1945 as a second pilot with No. 1330 Conversion Unit which was equipped with C-47 Dakota, flying for the first time with the C-47 DF808. The squadron carried out transport missions and liaison duties between RAF units in North Africa and Southern Europe while training crews on the legendary transport plane. Here, too, Karvelis came in contact with more RHAF Officers such as P/O Igoumenakos, and Fl/Lt Athanasoulias, who were trained there and, in whose training, he participated as a translator, on board.
The Greek-Egyptian aviator remained with the squadron until July 2, 1945, when he was released from service in the RAF. On December 8, 1946, he married the Greek expatriate Cleopatra Foskolou, originally from Tinos and they had children, Nestor, and Christiana. He worked in his father's business in the trade of tobacco products, importing from Europe and America and selling them in two privately owned stores in central parts of Cairo. Despite the difficulties he faced under Nasser, like thousands of other Egyptian expatriates, he remained in the country of the Nile and persevered despite constant problems. Nasser had banned imports to prevent foreign exchange outflows, while the nationalizations he imposed for the good of his country affected many of the Greek expatriates. But the shops lasted because they were in the center of Cairo and so Karvelis and his family remained in Egypt, unlike many Greeks who left Egypt in two waves, first in 1956 and then in 1962. The active Greek expatriate was also President of the Greek Community of Cairo. In 2004 he was repatriated, selling his property in Egypt, and retired back to Greece. He passed away on December 18, 2015, in Lemnos, having done his duty to his country during the difficult hours of World War II, responding to the call to arms.
Charilaos Carvellis poses proudly, carrying his aviator wings on his chest. (Carvelis Family Archive)
Inside the cockpit of a Baltimore of No.70 Operational Training Unit (OTU). The unit was formed at Ismailia in Egypt on 10 December 1940. Its task was to train pilots to operate in Middle Eastern conditions. From 25 Apr 1941, it was split into fighter and bomber sections. In June 1941 the bomber element became independent as No.70 OTU again. A detachment operated at Nakuru in Kenya from March to July 1941, when it was joined by the main unit, the first-course taking place in August. In June 1942 it began to receive Martin Baltimores and absorbed two smaller units, the Beam Approach Training Unit from Nanyuki and the Transport Training Flight. In May 1943 it began moving to Shandur, but this was not completed until August when it came under the control of No.203 Group. At the same time, Marauders replaced the Blenheims and continued in their assigned duties until disbanding on 16 July 1945. (Carvellis Family Archive, further info by Wikipedia)
The De Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth '680' of No.28 EFTS was the trainer in which Carvellis flew his sixth flight during his initial training and had the distinctive yellow colour with a red checkered stripe on the fuselage. '680' had an eventful career when it landed aboard De Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth 84062 at RAF Mount Hampden, Mashonaland West Province, Southern Rhodesia on 14 May 1942. The latter was deemed beyond repair, but '680' was repaired and returned to flying. Very little else is known about this aircraft except that it was built by DH Australia at Bankstown in Sydney in 1941 and that the serial number was derived from MSN (DHA.680). Tiger Moth '680' is believed to have been scrapped in December 1943 as the 'harsh' climate took its toll and eventually all Tigers with over 2,000 hours were scrapped in 1943 (Profile by Bertrand Brown, further info by https://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/276561 )
CARVELLIS FAMILY PHOTO ARCHIVE
The leather helmet of Charilaos Carvellis survives to this day. (Elias Kotsalis)
We would like to express our thanking to Charilaos Carvellis family and speciffically Mr. Nestor Carvellis as well as the aviation artist John Wynne who gave us permission to use his lovely painting, showing the Tiger Moth '680' in flight. Also Ioannis Liarakos for letting us know about the story of Charilaos Carvellis and Ilias Kotsalis who introduced first the Greek Egyptian pilot to the Greek public, though an article he wrote for the Lemnos News newspaper.
1. Personal Correspondence of Dimitris Vassilopoulos with Mr. Nestor Carvellis and Christiana Carvellis.
2. Charilaos Carvellis logbook.
3. Iστορία της Ελληνικής Πολεμικής Αεροπορίας, Τόμος Δ'.