Old school salute for Irish RAF fighter pilot Finucane
Published 25/11/2012 | 05:00
ONE of the legendary Spitfire aces of the Battle of Britain, Irishman Brendan 'Paddy' Finucane, is to be celebrated by his Dublin alma mater next week, over 70 years after his death.
By the time he died in 1942 at the age of only 21, Finucane was a highly decorated RAF ace with over 30 "kills" to his credit, many of them during Britain's fight for survival against the Nazis in the Battle of Britain.
He was the youngest wing commander in the RAF and a hero to the British press and public.
Born in 1920 in Dublin, his father fought alongside Eamon de Valera in Boland's Mills during the 1916 Rising.
He was educated at Synge Street CBS and then at O'Connells Schools before his family emigrated to Surrey in 1936. At only 19 years of age, serving with No 65 squadron in RAF Hornchurch in Essex during mid-July 1940 when the Battle of Britain began, Finucane had his first victory when he shot down an Me-109 fighter.
With a shamrock painted on his Spitfire, Finucane, who wore a silver Fainne and had been an altar boy, went on to have numerous victories and was eventually promoted to wing commander, leading four fighter squadrons at Hornchurch.
He even tangled with famous Luftwaffe ace Adolf Galland, riddling his aircraft with shells and forcing him to bail out off the coast of France.
But Finucane took no pleasure in killing his opponents, saying: "I shoot to hit the machine, not the lad in it; at least I hold him no grudge, but I have to let him have it."
However, his luck eventually ran out when his Spitfire was hit by German machinegun fire from a French beach in 1942 and he had to land it in the English Channel, saying over the radio: "This is it, chaps."
However, neither Finucane nor his aircraft were ever seen again and he is still listed on official memorials as missing.
Now O'Connells Schools' past pupils' union is to unveil a memorial to Finucane at the school in North Richmond Street next Saturday with aviation writer Maurice Byrne giving an illustrated lecture.