The Airmen's Stories - F/O B E F Finucane
Brendan Eamonn Fergus Finucane was born in Dublin, Ireland on 16th October 1920.
He was the eldest of five children and in his youth he attended the local Christian Brothers O’Connell School.
Brendan’s mother and father, Florence and Thomas Finucane moved Richmond in London during 1936.
After leaving school Finucane found employment as a clerk, his aptitude for mathematics inspired him to seek a career in accountancy.
Recognising that war was coming, Finucane decided to apply for a short service commission in the RAF.
He was successful and commenced flying traing at 6 E&RFTS Sywell on 29th August 1938 while still 17 years old. Surprisingly perhaps, considering his later accomplishments as a pilot, he made poor progress and was consistently rated as ‘below average’.
Further training at 8 FTS Montrose followed, then a posting to 13 MU Henlow on 26th June 1939 to the Practice and Test Flight.
He went to 7 OTU Hawarden on 28th June 1939 to convert to Spitfires and was then posted to 65 Squadron at Hornchurch on 15th July.
Over two days in August, 12th and 13th, he claimed two Me109's destroyed, two probables and one damaged.
No further victories were claimed by Finucane until June 1941; on the 4th a Me110, on the 19th he shared a Ju88, on 4th February destroyed a Me109 and on 15th April another. He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 13th May 1941).
On 14th April Finucane was posted to 452 (RAAF) Squadron, then forming at Kirton-in-Lindsey, as a Flight Commander. He claimed a Me109 destroyed on 11th July, the squadron's first victory. Here he met F/Lt. Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott, one of the Australian pilots, and they speculated about setting up in business in Australia once the war was over.
Above: Finucane (left) shakes hands with 'Bluey' Truscott on 13th October 1941 after returning from Circus 108A during which each had shot down two Me109s.
Between 3rd August and 13th October 1941 Finucane claimed sixteen Me109's destroyed, two probably destroyed, two shared and two damaged.
He was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 9th September 1941), a second Bar (gazetted 26th September 1941) and the DSO (gazetted 21st October 1941).
After breaking an ankle in the blackout, Finucane entered the RAF Hospital Halton on 14th November and left a week later to convalesce at Torquay. He rejoined 452, then at Kenley, on 19th January 1942.
One week later Finucane took command of 602 Squadron at Redhill. He was wounded on 20th February in an engagement with Fw190's over Mardyck near Dunkirk. He was flying Spitfire Vb BL548 during a ‘Rhubarb’ sortie when a cannon shell exploded in his cockpit. Wounded and losing blood he was able to return to base but had to be lifted out from the shattered cockpit before being taken to hospital. He was back in action in early March.
He destroyed a Fw190 and shared another on 13th March, shared a probable Ju88 on the 14th, destroyed a Fw190 on the 26th, got a probable Fw190 and a probable Me109 and shared another on the 28th, damaged Fw190's on 2nd April, 10th and 16th, shared a Fw190 on the 26th, damaged another on the 28th, probably destroyed one on the 30th, shot down another Fw190 down on 17th May and probably another on 8th June.
Finucane was appointed Wing Commander Flying at Hornchurch on 21st June 1942. After attacking ships at Ostend and strafing a German airfield on 15th July the Wing reformed to return to Hornchurch. As it passed at low level over the beach at Pointe du Touquet, Finucane's Spitfire Vb BM308 (a presentation aircraft named B.E. Finucane) was hit by machine gun fire from the ground and the radiator was damaged. His engine began to overheat and Finucane apparently prepared to bale out but was too low. The engine stopped and he crashed into the sea. No trace of him was ever found. He was 21 years old.
Finucane's last words over the R/T before hitting the water were 'This is it, chaps'.
He was an immensely able and popular leader and his loss was very keenly felt, the squadron ORB for this day stating:
A fine bright day today and at eleven thirty pilots are called to the briefing room and told by Wing Commander Finucane that the hutted camp at Etaples is going to be shot up. He is leading 154. It is a tragic day for us all. Wing Commander Finucane has the foulest luck. A stream of bullets from a Hun machine gun on the beach in the Estuary mouth gets his radiator. He is forced to ditch and is not seen again.
Finucane's personal aircraft was adorned with a shamrock emblem. A well-meaning member of his groundcrew added a circle of swastikas, representing his victories to date. Finucane, always known as 'Paddy', asked for them to be removed as he felt it was wrong to boast about actions that must have resulted in the death of an unknown number of young men.
Although an Irish citizen, Finucane was a national hero in Great Britain. A Requiem Mass was held for him at Westminster Cathedral in London and over 3,000 people attended. A nationwide appeal resulted in the bequeathing of the ‘Finucane Ward’ in the Richmond Royal Hospital.
He is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 64 (below).
His portrait was made by Cuthbert Orde in October 1941 (below).
Apart from the road named after Finucane at the Grassmead Estate in St.Mary Cray, Kent (above), there is a block of flats named ‘Finucane Court’ in his old hometown of Richmond in Surrey (below).
April 2009 - Paddy Finucane is now commemorated in his native Ireland - click here