Flight Lt Richard Hillary

Flight Lt Richard Hope Hillary (20 April 1919 – 8 January 1943)

Hillary was called up to the Royal Air Force in October 1939 and in July 1940, having completed his training, he was posted to B Flight No 603 Squadron flying Spitfires. The Squadron moved south to RAF Hornchurch on 27 August 1940 and immediately saw combat. In one week of combat Hillary personally claimed five Bf 109s shot down, claimed two more probably destroyed and one damaged.

On the 3rd of September and just after his 5th kill he was hit and his Spitfire set on fire. Unable to bail out of the flaming aircraft immediately, Hillary sustained extensive burns to his face and hands. Just before impact crashed Hillary fell from the stricken Spitfire, unconscious but coming to his senses he deployed his chute and landed in the North sea. Rescued by the Margate lifeboat his injuries were such that he became one of the ‘guinea pigs’ under the surgeon Archibald McIndoe.

Enduring months of repeated surgery in an attempt to repair the damage to his hands and face and he wrote an account of his experiences, published in 1942 under the title The Last Enemy.

Although colleagues said he could barely hold a knife and fork Hillary talked authorities into letting him fly again. Joining No 54 Operational Training Unit he was killed in a Blenheim on the 25th January 1943 in a night training flight.

In the picture Hillary – 3rd from the right – is seen with such notables as Sailor Malan, Brian Kingcome, Alan Deere and Johnny Kent.

 

And finally…

 

We at the Spitfire Manor Experience would like to invite all those like-minded Spitfire lovers to enjoy our hospitality and see Normandy from our Spitfire, flights with us can be arranged by clicking on the ‘Booking’ button – and we believe will lead you to the experience of a lifetime.

 

Brendan ‘Paddy’ Finucane

Brendan Eamonn Fergus Finucane

Irish born ‘Paddy’ Finucane was posted in July 1940 to 64 Squadron flying Spitfire MK 1’s from RAF Hornchurch.

His first victory was scored on 12th of August 1940 – an ME109. By the January of 1942 he had been promoted Squadron leader and took over 602 Squadron and though wounded in February of 1942 he returned to flying and steadily built up his score of enemy aircraft destroyed

In the June of 1942, he became the youngest wing commander in RAF history and was appointed to lead the ‘Hornchurch Wing’. By July he had been credited with 28 kills making him the RAF’s top scorer.

On the 15th July 1942 he took off leading the wing on a strafing attack at Étaples.

As they crossed the coast he was hit in the cooling system by a ground based machine gun. Suddenly starting to trailing a plume of white glycol his wingman informed his leader of the problem and with a thumbs up Finucane, with his wingman alongside, turned out to sea to try and get back home.

Spitfires are notorious for their engines seizing once the cooling system is compromised and about 8 miles from Le Touquet the engine stopped. An unfortunate problem with the Spitfires design is that they do not ditch well – they go down like a rock.

It may be that after releasing his harness to ensure a quick exit upon impact he hit his head on the gunsight, knocking him unconscious. The Spitfire sank very quickly leaving just an oily patch and some maps but taking with it one of the highest scorers of the RAF – and a true gentleman.

And finally….

We at the Spitfire Manor Experience would like to invite all those like-minded Spitfire lovers to enjoy our hospitality and see Normandy from our Spitfire, flights with us can be arranged by clicking on the ‘Booking’ button – and we believe will lead you to the experience of a lifetime.

Peter Townsend

Group captain Peter Townsend, author and pilot originally flew Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain where he was commanding 85 Squadron. However during the making of the film ‘The Battle of Britain’ in 1969, where he was one of the advisors, he took to the air again – this time in Spitfires.

As he said in thanking the production company in the notes to his book ‘Duel of Eagles’ ‘…and for letting me play with their Spitfires.’

 

And finally….

We at the Spitfire Manor Experience would like to invite all those like-minded Spitfire lovers to enjoy our hospitality and see Normandy from our Spitfire, flights with us can be arranged by clicking on the ‘Booking’ button – and we believe will lead you to the experience of a lifetime.