--- The following article was written and contributed by Glenn T. Heyler ---
THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD, AS WE THAT ARE LEFT GROW OLD,
Paddy was born in Dublin on the 16th day of October 1920, the first child of Thomas and Florence Finucane. He was followed shortly by a brother, Ray, another brother Kevin, and then two sisters, Monica and Claire. He became an all around sportsman, excelling at Rugby, Football, Boxing and Rowing. His family immigrated to Richmond, Surrey England in November of 1936. Having always dreamed about flying through the heavens, Paddy joined the RAF in August 1938 and was posted to 65 Squadron at Hornchurch on July 13th, 1940. In late April 1941 he was posted to 452 Squadron (RAAF) as Flight Commander. In January 1942 Finucane was given command of 602 Squadron. He was then appointed Wing Commander flying (at 21 Paddy was the RAF's youngest W/C ever) out of Hornchurch on June 27th, 1942.
During the Battle of Britain, Finucane destroyed his first Bf l09 on August 12th, 1940, getting a second a day later. As his victory tally rose, the word of his heroics spread throughout England. On April 15, 1941, Paddy crossed paths with one of Germany’s highest decorated pilot’s in history, Oberstleutnant Adolf Galland. Commanding JG 26, Galland decided to join a birthday celebration for General Theo Osterkamp and personally deliver some lobsters and oysters for his party. Galland's crew chief placed the goods in Galland's new Bf 109F fighter just before takeoff. Galland's flight plan would take himself and his wingman, from Brest to Le Touquet, France, the site of the party, but en-route to Le Touquet, Galland decided that a detour to England was in order. His hunter instinct paid off near Dover, as they both surprised a large flight of Spitfires on maneuvers. Paddy Finucane was leading that group of Spitfires. Galland’s instincts proved deadly as he managed to down three Spitfire Mk. IIs (only 1 was actually destroyed). As Galland flew through the formation, Paddy rolled out from above and targeted Galland. The hunter became the hunted and Finucane riddled Galland’s aircraft with shells. Galland bailed out of his flaming Bf-109 near the coast of France (Galland claimed to have landed the plane uninjured). He was rescued hours later. Suffice it to say, Galland was late to Osterkamp’s party as Paddy claimed Galland as a victory!
Said Finucane, “I shoot to hit the machine, not the lad in it; at least I hold him no grudge, but I have to let him have it. See him first before he sees you, hit him when you fire as you might not have a second chance”.
The only time Paddy was wounded in combat came on February of 1942. Paddy went out over Dunkirk in a daylight sweep with his squadron. After an hour of dodging and dog fighting in the clouds over the French coast, a German gunner put a shell through the cockpit of the Flying Shamrock. A sharp piece of shattered plate ripped Paddy’s thigh from knee to hip. As he put it later, “ The cockpit was awash with blood. It was not until I was feeling a bit sick and dizzy did it dawn on me that it was my blood!”…“Good Dublin blood should not be wasted!”…“How I even managed to land without a crackup will never be known, luck of the Irish triumphed that day if ever!”…Five weeks later and mended, the British headlines read, “Finucane Flies Again!” Model airplanes of his Spitfire with the vivid green Shamrocks were sold all along Piccadilly Circus and The Strand. Small boys robbed their Mother’s purses in haste in order to own one! These were treasured reminders that the greatest flying Ace was again winging his way across the murky channel to protect England. Even the German pilots were aware as word spread to, “Get Finucane of the Shamrock!”
After attacking German shipping at Ostend and strafing three German airfields on July 15th, 1942, Finucane’s wing regrouped to return to Hornchurch. As the group passed low-level over the beach at Pointe Du Touquet, Finucane’s Spitfire was hit by machine gun fire that severely damaged his radiator. The engine overheated and quit, and the Spitfire was too low to allow Finucane to bail out. Losing altitude swiftly, Paddy was heard to say; “This is it, Chaps.” Witnesses reported that after a near perfect "splash" the Shamrock-Spit sank like a stone, and despite all efforts, was never to be seen again. At the time of his death, Wing Commander Finucane’s score stood at an amazing 32 victories.
Texan Downs Two Nazis As R.A.F. Attacks Grow
London, Aug. 28, 1941 (Thursday) (BUP) - Royal Air
Force bombers battered German defenses and other targets across the
Channel last night and were believed to have struck at enemy shipping
in the Strait of Dover.
Australia and Auditing Ambitions of R.A.F. Ace
London, Nov, 12, 1941 - (CP) - When the war is over,
the ordered, unexciting life of a bookkeeper will do for one of the
R.A.F.’s top-notch fighter pilots—Flight Lieutenant Brendan
(Paddy) Finucane. The 21-year-old Irishman, who already has been through
enough excitement to last him a lifetime, revealed his unpretentious
ambition in a broadcast.
Londoners sometimes see him on his infrequent play
nights, striding through the restaurants and bars with an air of careless
majesty. There, the onlooker instantly knows, is somebody. He IS somebody:
Brendan ("Paddy") Finucane, Irish leader of Australia's famous
No. 452 Fighter Squadron.
Last week Squadron Leader Finucane's luck turned.
Non-Stop Spring Offensive Sees industrial Rhineland
The Search for Paddy Finucane
by Bob Morrow, D.F.C., 402 Squadron
"ON September 8, 1941, at Southend, I flew a Spitfire for
the first time. It was a visiting aircraft. Like all pilots, I
found it remarkable—very responsive, and light compared
to the Hurricane, which was the aircraft 402 Squadron used at
Paddy Finucane, as he was known to the world, had for
many moons been an international hero as the result of a series of exploits
of such bravery and skill that they earned for him the Distinguished
Service Order and the Distinguished Flying Cross with two bars. Nearly
a year ago he had the destruction of twenty-three German planes to his
credit, and he had led his squadron of fighting planes on many a raid
over Germany to protect the death-dealing bombers.
But Paddy Finucane also enjoyed a special popularity as one of the most picturesque figures among the gallant band of Irish lads I who have been trying in their modest way to make atonement for Eire's neutrality by offering their lives in the cause of freedom. A Dubliner born and bred, he probably inherited with his mother's milk all the bitter prejudices which all too many of his race harbor against Britain, but on the eve of his manhood he had an infinitely clearer discernment about the realities of war than that experienced politician, Mr. de Valera. He saw that there could be no genuine freedom for Eire if Hitler and his allies prevailed and he decided that, young though he was and under no obligation to fight, he must play his part in what he regarded as a battle for Irish freedom.
Like another brave Irish squadron leader, Grattan-Desmonde, who won a posthumous Victoria Cross for leading the attack upon the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau, Paddy Finucane died a hero's death before he could see the outcome of the terrible struggle. But they and the rest of their compatriots who are fighting on the British side in larger numbers than most people realize, have helped to redeem the honor of their race which meaner-minded men have been degrading.
Publicity in the Irish papers about death in action of citizens of Eire who fall while serving with the fighting forces of Britain is, we understand, banned by the Government's censorship, but word of the gallant end to Paddy Finucane's high-hearted career will get back to the plain folk of Dublin, who, if they are true to their blood, must still love a brave fighter, and his death may yet be worth many recruits to the British Army and Air Force.
Toronto also is entitled to a certain proud satisfaction that it was one of her own sons, Pilot Officer Allan F. Aikman, who avenged Finucane's death by annihilating the German machine-gun nest from which the fatal shot came.
FLYER'S FATHER EXPERIENCED
14 March 1944 - There seems more than ample justification
for the firm request of the Roosevelt Administration, made with the
fully and publicly expressed concurrence of the Churchill Ministry that
the Government of Mr. de Valera should take appropriate steps to dismiss
the diplomatic and consular representatives of Germany and Japan stationed
in Eire. The note sent from Washington made out a clear case for immediate
compliance with the demand. It would never have been dispatched if there
had not been very good grounds for believing that the diplomatic establishments
of the two enemy Powers in Eire are being used as bases for a highly
organized system of espionage.
The proximity of Northern Ireland and Britain facilitates opportunities for effective espionage, and, despite the assurances of Mr. de Valera that the wireless transmitter of the German Legation in Dublin was safely under the control of his Government, and that all possible precautions against espionage were being taken, it would not be beyond the resources of the German officials in Ireland to devise ways and means of transmitting invaluable information gathered by their spies to the General Staff of the Reichswehr. The latter would know how to make profitable use of it for frustrating the Allies' plans for the invasion of Western Europe, and consequently the presence of these enemy representatives in Eire constitutes a real danger to the lives of our fighting men.
With important military operations pending, its removal is imperative, and, when Mr. de Valera rejected the American demand in a note which evaded the real issue and contained a petulant threat directed toward Britain, the British Government, acting, it is said, at the direct request of Gen. Eisenhower, the Allied Commander-in-Chief, had virtually no alternative but to suspend immediately and indefinitely all travel between Britain and any part of Ireland, except for a few special categories of people. Military considerations of paramount importance dictate this step, and Mr. de Valera is discovering that he can count on no sympathy from any quarter of the United Nations. The Labor Government of Australia, whose Leader, John Curtin, has Irish blood in his veins, rejecting summarily Mr. de Valeras' request that it intervene at Washington on his behalf, has endorsed the American note, and yesterday our own Prime Minister properly gave it his complete approval.
Mr. de Valera makes the specious claim that his policy of neutrality represents the united will of his people and their Parliament. But to thousands of people in Eire it must be a source of continual humiliation. The story of Ireland's own long battle for political freedom is no inglorious tale, and while it was being waged the sympathies of Irishmen were freely bestowed upon other peoples fighting in the same cause; they fought with Garibaldi for the liberation of Italy, and under Bolivar for the emancipation of South America from Spanish misrule. So it is both strange and deplorable to see the Southern Irish, having gained their own freedom, showing such shameful indifference to the preservation of a free world.
Happily the fair name of the Irish race has been at least partially redeemed by the valorous exploits of dead Irish heroes like Capt. Fogerty Fegen of the Jervis Bay and the two fearless airmen, Paddy Finucane and Eugene Esmonde, and by the many thousands of their compatriot's who have enlisted voluntarily in the fighting forces of Britain. It is they, and not the semi-Spaniard, de Valera, who have been true to the best traditions of the Irish people.
Grimsby, Ont., July, 31, 1944 — Veteran of 140 operational flights and former commanding officer of the first Royal Canadian Air Force fighter squadron overseas, Wing-Cmdr. Keith Hodson, D.F.C. and Bar; also the United States D.F.C., is back in Canada on furlough. He arrived at the home of his parents, Brigadier Vernon Hodson and Mrs. Hodson, of Grimsby, on Saturday night. One of Canada's noted airmen, Wing-Cmdr. Hodson was in command of one of the first Canadian wings to go to France following the invasion.
Won't Discuss Exploits
The tall, curly-haired, quiet-spoken wing commander just would not talk about any of his own exploits in the air. About all he would say was: "I was on fighter sweeps over France and escorting United States Fortresses on their early raids — nothing outstanding at all." He didn't tell about leading his squadron in attacks on German trains or about leading the squadron over Dieppe on an escort assignment with American Flying Fortresses, then, after meeting stiff opposition, going out on a second assignment to add five probables to the squadrons score. Nor did he tell about his own fights with Focke-Wulf 190's, Dornier 217's and other enemy aircraft; or about the part he played in the Battle of Britain.
There is one thing he is really proud of and that is the fact that he flew into battle many times alongside the late Paddy Finucane, ace RAF flyer of this war.
By FRED BACKHOUSE
London, July 15, 1945 (CP) — Group Captain J. E. (Johnny) Johnson, English-born, former leader of a crack Canadian Spitfire wing, has been officially recognized as "ace of aces" among Allied fighter pilots who fought over Europe.
Final scoring records, compiled by The Canadian Press from figures supplied by the RAF, RCAF, and United States 8th and 9th Air Forces, put this peace-time accountant from the Leicestershire town of Loughborough at the top of the list with 38 German planes destroyed.
Group Capt. Johnson, who so closely identified himself with his otherwise all-Canadian squadron that he wore "Canada" on his shoulder, has often given much of the credit for his success to the Canadians who flew with him. "It's all a combination play" he said. Many of his men themselves became "aces."
Of the first 16 places supplied by the air forces, fourth is held by a Canadian — Flt. Lt. George (Buzz) Beurling, DSO, DFC, DFM and Bar, of Verdun, Que. — and 11 by RAF pilots. For the record, only those with more than 24 "kills" were offered by the three services as their top men.
Official final scores are:
Group Capt. J. E. Johnson (RAF), 38
Group Capt. A. G. Malan (RAF) [no score given –ed]
Sqdn. Ldr. P. Finucane (RAF), 32
Flt. Lt. G. Beurling (RCAF), 31
Wing Cmdr. Stanford Tuck (RAF), 30
Wing Cmdr. J. R. D. Braham (RAF), 29
an anonymous Polish sergeant [Czech pilot Josef Frantisek -ed] (RAF), 28
Wing Cmdr. F. R. Carey (RAF), 28
Lt. Col. F. G. Gabreski (U.S. 8th), 28
Maj. G. E. Preddy (U.S. 8th) [no score given –ed]
Wing Cmdr. C. Caldwell (RAF), 27½
Capt. R. Johnson (U.S. 8th) [no score given –ed]
Flt. Lt. Mungo Park (RAF) [no score given –ed]
Sqdn. Ldr. J. H. Lacey (RAF), 27
Flt. Lt. E. S. Lock (RAF), 25
Lt.-Col. J. C. Meyer (U.S. 8th), 24½
[some of these numbers have been modified since the war – ed]
RCAF fighter pilots in the European war with scores of 15 or more German planes destroyed number six according to overseas headquarters in London. In addition, there were two equally high-scoring Canadians in the RAF, both of whom were killed in that service before they could transfer to the RCAF.
After Beurling they are:
Sqdn. Ldr. H. W. McLeod, DSO, DFC and Bar, of Regina, 22
Flt. Lt. J. T. Caine, DFC, and Bar, of Toronto, 20
Wing Cmdr. Mark H. Brown, DFC and Bar (RAF), of Glenboro, Man., 18
FO. W. L. McKnight, DFC and Bar (RAF), of Calgary, 16½
Wing Cmdr. R. W. McNair, DSO, DFC & two bars, of North Battleford, 16
Wing Cmdr. L. V. Chadburn, DSO and Bar, DFC, of Aurora, Ont., 15
Flt. Lt. Don C. Laubman, DFC and Bar, of Edmonton, 15
The late Wing-Cmdr. Brown is officially credited by the RAF with "at least 18" aircraft destroyed. His score may well have been higher, but uncertainty exists because the records of No. 1 Squadron, RAF, of which he was then commanding officer, were destroyed during the retreat at the time of the collapse of France.
The picture above was taken by Brendan's rigger, Herbert "Jimmy" Firth, using a Brownie Box type camera. Probably at RAF Kirton on Lindsay, Lincolnshire while they were with 452 Sq. RAAF. Photo courtesy of Dave Hanks
Lord of the spacious kingdoms of the air,
He was too young to die, and yet who dares
Check out this letter that recently sold on ebay
R.A.F Station Redhill 27/5/42
My dearest Mother and Dad,
Your loving son, Bren.
--- English Aces ---
--- Canadian Aces ---
On these pages I use info from the London Gazette Archives,
newspaper articles via the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation (CMCC)
as well as other sources both published and private