Group Captain (retired) John ‘Paddy’ Hemingway, the last known Battle for France and Battle of Britain pilot, celebrated his 102nd Birthday back in May of this year.
Like with many events during the pandemic, celebrations were curtailed and localised with close family and friends in attendance. However, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, Chief of the Air Staff took time to visit and find out a little more about Paddy’s amazing career and life - during a recent visit to Dublin for a meeting with the Chief of the Irish Air Corps.
Paddy joined the RAF on a short service commission on 7th March 1938, gaining the rank of Pilot Officer a year later. Following the outbreak of World War II, he was assigned to 85 Squadron in France, recorded as destroying a He 111 on 10th May. The following day, he destroyed a Do 17 and was forced to make a landing near Maastricht after his plane was damaged. During the Battle of Dunkirk he flew supporting missions over the English Channel.
Paddy initially served in England with 253 Squadron before returning to 85 Squadron on 15th June. He was shot down over Eastchurch on 26th August; making him 85 Squadron's first official combat victim over Britain. On 1st July 1941 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
During the visit, Paddy spoke about his time in France during the turbulent period in May 1940 when enemy advances led to the fall of France. He also discussed the Summer of 1940 when he flew multiple sorties daily in his Hurricane, in defence of the United Kingdom, in what became known as the Battle of Britain. Other accounts including bailing out into the English Channel, Paddy’s RAF career until his retirement following a period as Station Commander RAF Leconfield and how the RAF has changed since World War II were recalled.