504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron remembered its most famous pilot on Wednesday 10th October when a replica Hurricane fighter was refurbished to honour Flight Lieutenant Ray Holmes.
The Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon recently refurbished their replica Hawker Hurricane gate guardian. The Hurricane’s number and colours reflect 504 Squadron’s most famous aerial engagement. On 15th September 1940, during the Battle of Britain, Pilot Sergeant Ray Holmes of 504 Squadron took off in his Hurricane to intercept a formation of three German Dornier bombers heading for Central London.
After attacking the first two Bombers, Holmes realised he had run out of ammunition with one German aircraft still airborne. He decided to ram the Dornier. At more than 350 mph, the Hurricane’s wing sliced completely through the bomber’s rear fuselage. Both Holmes and the German pilot parachuted from their aircraft; the Dornier ploughed into Victoria Station while the Hurricane crashed into Buckingham Palace Road.
Joining the members of 504 Squadron was Anne Holmes, widow of the late fighter ace. It was the first time Mrs Holmes had seen how her husband’s aircraft would have looked during the Battle of Britain. Mrs Holmes was met by a delegation from today’s 504 Squadron; Squadron Leader Andy Ham, Flight Lieutenant Jill Harrison, Warrant Officer Dave Dundas and Sergeant Nick Woolmer.
The replica Hurricane has seen some travels during RAF 100 but it was the story of Ray Holmes that made the museum choose it as an official gate guardian. All Royal Air Force stations have a gate guardian; usually a retired aircraft which stands at the main gate and symbolises the station in some way. At RAF Wittering the gate guardian is a Harrier.
Naturally, the day left quite an impression on Mrs Holmes. She said: “I am very proud to be connected through Ray to the 504 Squadron. The visit was amazing and moving. A day I shall never forget. Everyone was so kind even the sun. I wish I could rewind and go through it all once more.”
Today 504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron is a logistic support unit of the Royal Air Force Reserve and trains drivers, chefs and logisticians but its sense of history remains as strong as ever. In the Squadron’s headquarters at RAF Wittering, their conference room has been named after Ray Holmes.
Flight Lieutenant Jill Harrison is the Squadron Adjutant at 504 Squadron. She said: “Meeting Anne was just amazing, the way she cares for her husband’s legacy is incredible. It didn’t seem to matter that 504 Squadron does a completely different job these days, Anne was every bit as interested in what we do now. It was a pleasure and a real honour to meet her.”