Educated at Oundle near Peterborough, Harold Alfred Whistler also attended London University and the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. Commissioned in the Dorsetshire Regiment, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in 1916 and received his certificate on 29 September 1916. He flew the Morane Parasol with 3 Squadron until he was wounded in action on 29 January 1917. When he recovered from his wounds, Whistler joined 80 Squadron as a flight commander. With this unit he returned to France in 1918, flying numerous ground attack and support missions in the Sopwith Camel. In air combat on 1 June 1918, an enemy tracer round set the plywood behind his seat on fire but Whistler extinguished the blaze and downed a German opponent before safely returning to his aerodrome. When the Great War ended, he remained in the Royal Air Force as an instructor at Cranwell. In the 1920s he was Chief Flying Instructor at 5 FTS, Sealand and later the Central Flying School at Wittering (1930-1932) where he was responsible for training, among others, many of the pilots who would later command RAF units in World War II. Whistler also served as commanding officer of 55 Squadron and his service against the Najd Bedouin tribesmen resulted in a second bar for his Distinguished Flying Cross in 1929. He died while still serving as a Group Captain. In March 1940, the plane which was carrying him back to United Kingdom from India, an Imperial Airways Hannibal, disappeared without a trace. His last appointment had been Chief of Staff RAF India in the acting rank of Air Commodore. Among his other appointments, Whistler had been Head of Intelligence at Fighter Command HQ and had passed the RAF Staff College at Andover in 1932 and the Imperial Defence College.
Great Britain, Royal Aero Club Aviators' Certificates, 1910-1950
Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
Lt. (temp. Capt.) Alfred Harold Whistler.
A very courageous and enterprising patrol leader, who has rendered valuable services. He has done exceptionally good work in attacking ground targets, which he engages at very low altitudes.
During the past month his patrol attacked eight enemy scouts who were flying above him. He attacked a triplane and brought it down in a crash, and whilst thus himself engaged another of his pilots destroyed a second enemy machine. The remainder of the enemy formation were then driven off.
Supplement to the London Gazette, 3 August 1918 (30827/9204)
Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
Capt. Alfred Harold Whistler, D.F.C. (Dorset Regt.).
During recent operations this officer has rendered exceptionally brilliant service in attacking enemy aircraft and troops on the ground. On August 9th he dropped four bombs on a hostile battery, engaged and threw into confusion a body of troops, and drove down a hostile balloon, returning to his aerodrome after a patrol of one and a half hours duration with a most valuable report. He has in all destroyed ten aircraft and driven down five others out of control.
Supplement to the London Gazette, 2 November 1918 (30989/12960)
Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) Bar
Capt. Alfred Harold Whistler, D.S.O., .D.F.C. (FRANCE)
This officer has twenty-two enemy machines and one balloon to his credit. He distinguished himself greatly on 29th September, when he destroyed two machines in one combat, and on 15th September, when, following two balloons to within twenty feet of the ground, he destroyed one and caused the observer of the second to jump out and crash. He has, in addition, done arduous and valuable service in bombing enemy objectives and obtaining information. Captain Whistler is a gallant officer of fine judgment and power of leadership.
Supplement to the London Gazette, 8 February 1919 (31170/2034)