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.
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