Three fuller accounts are attached as PDFs. One was written by Rabbi Meir Salasnik (published by Bushey Synagogue) while DD was still alive, another was written by Tali, while the third was written by Gloria Deutsch. Extracted from Tali’s account, here are a few major elements of DD’s life.
Squadron Leader David Dattner OBE AFC was born on 20 January 1922 and died aged 89 on 07 January 2012. His eventful life was marked out by an extreme commitment to helping others and to Judaism. At the beginning of WW2, he joined the RAF, where he remained for 25 years. Starting as a gunner, he was eventually promoted to Squadron Leader, gaining the Air Force Cross. Among other wartime experiences, he was captured and tortured by the anti-Semitic Ustashi in wartime Croatia. After the war, he remained an RAF professional officer, focusing on air-electronics.
During the 1950s, he became involved with RAF Mountain Rescue. While stationed in Northern Ireland, Dattner and another officer were told to start a team responsible for locating missing airplanes and their often badly injured crew. From novice status, he soon headed the Kinloss Mountain Rescue team, covering the Cairngorms, inspiring unswerving devotion in his team. Eventually, he became Inspector of RAF Mountain Rescue for the UK and further afield, for which work he was awarded the OBE in 1954, being commended for working “often in conditions which no ordinary person could endure”.
Other than that, he was dedicated to people, especially to youth. O ne aspect was training boys for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, which is how three of us originally met him. Perhaps more important, he spent a huge amount of his time with some of the most troubled youth in the country, juvenile delinquents who were incarcerated in Approved Schools. Somehow, he had developed a unique power to reach the heart of a person, whoever he or she might be.
After leaving the RAF in 1965, he began working formally in UK Approved Schools in the UK. An early post was Principal of St Leonard's Childrens' Home in Hornchurch, with 150 children (one of us worked there for a while), later becoming head of Finnart House in Weybridge. When this closed down, he emigrated to Israel, still caring for young people, taking up a post at the SOS Childrens' Village in Arad. Here, he was dealing with 100 children, mostly 9-14 years old, many of them orphans or from deprived homes. Many of the children were highly traumatized and he worked at counselling and helping each child individually.
In around 2002, he came back to UK, living in a retirement home, passing away in 2012. His legacy is having brought comfort to many people, in the UK and overseas. He is unforgettable.