RAF Benevolent Fund Day of Action

British propaganda poster during the Battle of...

Image via Wikipedia

Today marks the RAF Benevolent Fund’s ‘Day of Action’, and also seventy years since the height of the Battle of Britain over the skies of Southern England. To mark the day, I thought I would share a couple more stories about young fliers over Portsmouth in 1940. I’ve already written about Flight Lieutenant John ‘Nine Gun’ Coghlan DFC, a Hurricane Pilot who was killed in a secret mission over France in August 1940. The next two men might not have come from Portsmouth, but they died bravely in the skies over the city in 1940, and both were part of ‘the few’ of the Battle of Britain.

Sergeant Hubert Hastings Adair, 23 and from Norwich, was flying a Hurricane of 213 Squadron when he was shot down in the skies over North Portsmouth on 6 November 1940. He has no official grave, and is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey.

Adair had joined the RAF in 1936, and flew Fairey Battles over France in 1940. In August he transferred to the Hurricane-equipped 213 Squadron, based at Tangmere in West Sussex. Adair was last seen in Combat over Southampton Water, and when he failed to return it was assumed that he had crashed into the English Channel. After the war, however, it was discovered that his Hurricane had crashed in farmland a mile north of Portsdown Hill, near Pigeonhouse Lane. Locals were aware of the crash, but the RAF neither investigated the site nor recovered Adair’s remains.

In 1979 the Wealden Aviation Archaeological Group excavated the site. They recovered much of the aircraft, including the Browning Machine Guns and the Merlin Engine. Adair’s remains were also recovered. The coroner, however, stated that an inquest would not be held, and that the remains were to be disposed of. Because of this H.H. Adair is still officially Missing in Action.

A memorial plaque has been erected near the Churchillian Pub on Portsdown Hill, which overlooks the crash site roughly a mile to the north.

Flying Officer James Tillett, 22 and from Northamptonshire, was flying a Hurricane of 238 Squadron from Chilbolton, North Hampshire when he was also shot down north of Portsdown Hill later on the same day. He is buried in Ann’s Hill Cemetery, Gosport. Tillett joined the RAF as an officer cadet in 1937. Graduating from Cranwell in 1939 as a Pilot Officer, he was promoted to Flying Officer in 1940.

On 6 November 1940 Tillett’s Squadron was scrambled to intercept a Bomber formation heading for Portsmouth. Tillett was shot down over Fareham by a Messerschmitt 109 fighter. The crash site was recorded as ‘near Whitedell, Fareham’. His Hurricane was seen to crash land with its wheels in the air near White Dell Farm, North Wallington, Portsmouth. According to eyewitness accounts the plane was in flames; two brothers attempted to rescue Tillett who was slumped over the controls, but the fire engulfed their aircraft. A memorial plaque has also been placed near the site where Tillet’s Hurricane crashed, near the junction of Pook Lane and Spurlings Lane.

In a day of high drama over the skies of Portsmouth, it is believed that both men were shot down by Hauptmann (Major) Helmut Wick, the Commander of 2 Jagedschewader of the Luftwaffe. After claiming 56 kills Wick was himself shot down on 28 November 1940. Wick’s logbook for the day states that he had shot down two Hurricanes over the Portsmouth area on 6 November 1940.

What must it have been like to be a young person in Portsmouth on that day in 1940? Its hard to believe, but my Granddad can remember watching dogfights over the channel and over Portsmouth in 1940. One time, he saw a Heinkel flying so over Portsmouth that he could see the pilot’s blonde hair.

We think of war as something that happens to other people, in far-off places, in a bygone age. Yet Adair and Tillett were killed just a couple of miles away from my house, and were younger than me. Adair and Tillett, and indeed John Coghlan, and all of the other young men who fought and died with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War should never be forgotten. Of course today we remember the few of Fighter Command, but as well we must remember those who died in Bombers, in Transport Aircraft, Ground Crew, the WAAF’s, men and women, young and old, who served and died overseas or at home.

To find out more about what happened in 1940, to find out about the RAF Benevolent Fund’s 1940 Chronicle Campaign, or to donate to the RAFBF, click here

About these ads

19 Comments

Filed under Local History, Remembrance, Royal Air Force, Uncategorized, World War Two

19 responses to “RAF Benevolent Fund Day of Action

  1. x

    Glad to see you mentioned a pilot sergeant. I think NCO flyers are sometimes overlooked.

  2. James Daly

    NCO aircrew do indeed tend to be overlooked. Its a typical British thing I suspect, of paying more regard to someone if they are ‘of rank’. Look at how the Household Cavalry do not have Sergeants, as the word Sergeant is olde worlde for ‘servant’.

    Surely when in the air men faced the same risks? single seat fighters must be one of the great levellers of warfare.

  3. x

    HC have lance-corporal of the horse.

    And then there is major-general which is a lower rank than lieutenant-general because the former was once sergeant-major-general……..

    And it is interesting that while FAA and RAF pilots are officers the Army has NCO pilots. And I think the US Army has NCO pilots too.

  4. James Daly

    the major-general and lieutenant-general thing used to really confuse me as a young military nerd!

  5. Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this blog loading?

    I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
    Any feed-back would be greatly appreciated.

  6. Genuinely when someone doesn’t be aware of after that
    its up to other viewers that they will help,
    so here it happens.

  7. There is no components or software program, and the phone is not jail damaged in any
    way. This scenario, my great friends, is what the
    producers of Apples brand new Apple iphone are relying upon.

  8. Can I just say what a relief to uncover an individual who actually understands what they are discussing over
    the internet. You certainly understand how to bring an issue
    to light and make it important. More and more people have to read this and understand this side of your story.
    I was surprised you’re not more popular since you surely possess the gift.

  9. First, it absolutely was ‘The Real Beverly Hillbillies’.
    The movie starred Warren Beatty and Julie Christie as
    the main protagonists. It is undoubtedly gory and ill but so much
    fun to look at.

  10. Jailbreaking allows you to put in application not officially certified by
    Apple.

  11. Open it and you will locate a rounded picture, yeah right,
    it is the “AssistiveTouch”. Without find it on
    your iPad 2 from different applications You can easily open the
    sport.

  12. When a dog does not get enough physical exercise, his energy levels will
    rise with no appropriate outlet. Yet the race has
    a great sense of camaraderie, with some runners carrying others
    over the finishing line. Doing exercises to strengthen your muscles can also
    prevent you from fractures that result out of a fall.

  13. I’m really bad for Jesse and Walt. It’s about a former FBI agent named Frank Castle whose entire family is killed with a ruthless mob boss.

    However it’s never a higher package on your wallet.

  14. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

  15. Hi there, after reading this amazing paragraph i am also delighted to share my
    knowledge here with mates.

  16. Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my newest
    twitter updates. I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite
    some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something like this.
    Please let me know if you run into anything.
    I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new
    updates.

  17. Each of the remains were being moved by us into
    the back when John arrived together with the yacht drop,.
    While you recognize, Apple is fairly parochial about what can and cannot be saved while in the Apple
    App Store.

  18. We are happy that we can present to you: Whatsapp on pc!

    Using iMessage on your Apple iphone or utilizing Whatsapp on your Android device.
    These were some of the top rated apps, which you simply should check out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s