Squadron Leader Neville F. Duke was born on January 11th 1922 at Tonbridge, Kent. As a young lad he was very keen on flying and on his 18th birthday applied to join the Royal Air Force as a pilot. His wish was finally granted and he joined the RAF in June 1940 and went for flying training to RAF White Waltham. He completed his training on 17th February 1941 and then joined 92 Squadron at RAF Biggin Hill. He continued his service career in the Middle East joining 112 Squadron in Egypt and followed the advance through North Africa and into Italy with 92 and 145 Squadrons. This wartime experience made him the eighth ranking RAF combat pilot with 28 victories to his credit. He began his career as a test pilot when he was posted to Hawkers at Langley on the 1st January 1945 for a period of one year. In January 1946, he joined the Empire Test Pilots School after which, in June 1946, he became a member of the RAF High Speed Flight at Tangmere. From there he went to Boscombe Down Fighter Test Squadron. It was during this period that he was offered a job as a test pilot with Hawkers and so retired from the RAF in June 1948.
On a delivery flight from Hawkers for the Royal Pakistan Air Force, Neville Duke left Heathrow at 4.30 am. on 12th May 1949 in a Hawker Fury FB MK 60, K857 en route to Karachi. He arrived at Rome in 2 hrs. 31 mins. 51 secs. setting a new record for the route at 358.88 mph and London-Karachi in 18 hrs 51mins 34 secs.
At 7.42 a.m. on 16th February 1950 Neville Duke took off from Blackbushe in a Hawker Sea Fury FB MK 11 to set a new initial Class C1 point to point record between London and Cairo, 2,204-6 miles. With one 15 minute refuelling stop at Malta he reached Almaza having averaged 334.06 mph with a time of 6 hrs. 35 mins. 40 secs.
In April 1951 he was appointed Hawkers Chief Test Pilot. He took the World Air Speed Record in a Hawker Hunter MK 3 WB188 equipped with the 9,600 lbs. AVON RA7R on 7th September 1953flying from RAF Tangmere. The record was achieved at 727.6 mph over a 3 km course off Littlehampton on the Sussex coast.
On the 19th September he set another world record when flying over a 100 km closed circuit at Dunsfold in Surrey he recorded an average speed of 709.2 mph.