tish fighters then focused on these three aircraft

and shot down all of them. One Dornier crash-landed in Rochford, the second crashed east of

Eastchurch and the third one plunged into the

sea some 10 to 15 miles east of Foulness.

Squadron report stated that these three bombers were shot down by all pilots and none of

them claimed individual kill. Besides, while climbing, F/O Woods-Scawen hit the belly of one

Bf 109 with three-seconds burst and observed

pieces of debris flying in all directions. Right after

that he had to perform an evasive maneuver and

did not see the Messerschmitt fall, therefore he

claimed it as probable. John Hemigway flew as

Blue 2 and, in his report, stated, that he made several passes on three shot-down Dorniers. Then

he started to climb to attack the Bf 109s but they

were faster. While he was climbing two cannon

bullets hit him. One penetrated fuselage behind

the cockpit, while the second one hit the engine

on the starboard side. The engine immediately

heated up red and the Hurricane cockpit became

unbearably smelly and hot. John did not hesitate

a moment, jettisoned the canopy and bailed out.

He was afraid though, that the German fighters

could shoot at his parachute, therefore he opened it only after reaching the clouds at 8,000 feet.

He landed in the wet soil of Pitsea Marshes and

his Hurricane P3966 plunged into the soft ground

of Fobbing Marshes.

History is not fond of the word “if” but let’s take a

little detour here. Had Paddy Hemingway served

with the French or Soviet Air Force he would

have become an ace on that day. The French reportedly credited the kill to each pilot who participated in the dogfight and in the Soviet Union

there was a category of group kills besides individual ones. According to his report, Hemingway

was shooting at all three Dorniers but they were

not officially credited to him, therefore his score

remained at two kills from May 1940.

Pulled trigger

The place of Paddy’s Hurricane crash was located in 1987 and a year later the Essex Historical

Aircraft Society made a first attempt to recover

the wreck. They managed to find one landing

gear leg and two Browning machine guns, other

parts were buried too deep. The excavation was

renewed in 2019 and several organizations par-



Photo: Royal Air Force


John Hemingway with his comrades at the outbreak of the war.

ticipated in it. Nineteen feet deep they found fabric- covered tail of Hurricane P3966, a tailwheel

and a half of destroyed Merlin engine. The last

artifact they were able to locate was a propeller

spinner, 36 feet deep. When they recovered the

control stick the machine guns trigger was stuck

in the firing position. Paddy, who was 99 years

old at that time, was in Ireland watching the recovery of his airplane on television.

Eighty nine years ago he did not have too much

time for recuperation and had to be back in combat again. Several day later he paid Luftwaffe

back for his shooting down when he damaged

a Bf 109. Barely a month later he had an accident

again, this time without the enemy interference.

During the fly-over on September 22, due to the

worsening weather conditions, he had to make

an emergency landing near Church Fenton. At

that time No. 85 Squadron was suffering such

losses that there were only seven pilots on duty,

including John Hemingway. Squadron comman-

der, Peter Townsend (an ace with eleven kills

and later lover of Princess Margaret) was wounded, both flight leaders were killed and shortly

after the Squadron lost a new commander as

well. Therefore, the Air Chief Marshall, Hugh

Downing withdrew the unit from the combat as

a very first one.

Townsend, who Hemingway valued very highly as a first-class commander, recognized the

signs of a serious fatigue of his subordinate

and arranged for his transfer to less demanding

tasks. In July 1941 Paddy was decorated with DFC

and became a training instructor and later a flight controller. During the invasion to Normandy, he controlled the fighters from the ground.

He missed flying though and in September 1944

he was transferred to Italy where he was given

command of the No. 43 Squadron equipped with

Spitfires. Luftwaffe was rarely seen in the air, so

Paddy’s new unit dedicated itself to attacking the

ground targets. “The Germans were retreating,

INFO Eduard - October 2021