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The Airmen's Stories - F/O J C F Hayter

James Chilton Francis Hayter was born in Timaru, New Zealand on 18th October 1917 and attended Nelson College from 1928 to 1934. He worked on farms and in 1936 took private flying lessons at the Marlborough Aero Club.

In November 1938 Hayter joined the RNZAF on a short service commission. He was awarded his wings on 19th April 1939.



On 8th May Hayter was flying as observer in a Vildebeeste, which, flying too low, struck a beach at North Kaikoura, wiping off the undercarriage and damaging the propeller. The pilot made a crash-landing at Wigram, without injury either to himself or Hayter.

A month later Hayter was again flying as observer in a Vildebeeste over Lake Ellesmere. On a swan-strafing run, the aircraft struck the water and went in. Hayter and the other two aboard came close to drowning but all escaped with minor injuries.

Hayter sailed for the UK on 14th July 1939 in the SS Tamaroa from Auckland. After arrival, he was posted to 98 Squadron at Hucknall. which was equipped with Fairey Battles. On 12th November, flying low, he hit an air raid shelter and wrote off the aircraft but escaped with minor injuries. Soon afterwards Hayter was posted to 103 Squadron at Plivot in France.

On May 12th 1940 he was flying one of three Battles attacking roads and bridges near Sedan. Although attacked by Me110s, they bombed a pontoon bridge from a height of 20 feet and succeeded in holding up German tanks for some hours.

On 12th June Hayter's gunner shot down a Hs126. On 16th June Hayter was shot down by a Me109 as he was about to land. He was unhurt. Later that day the squadron was withdrawn to Honington, Suffolk.

Hayter volunteered for Fighter Command and joined 615 Squadron at Prestwick on 4th September but moved to 605 Squadron at Croydon on the 18th. On 15th October he damaged a Me109 and on the 26th, after damaging a Me109, he was himself shot down by another.

Hayter baled out at 25,000 feet and landed in the grounds of Great Swifts, home of Major Victor Cazalet, where a cocktail party was in progress and to which he was invited. His Hurricane, V6943, crashed at Staplehurst.

On 1st December Hayter destroyed a Me109. He was made a Flight Commander on February 20th 1941 and was posted away on May 1st to 52 OTU Debden, as an instructor.

After crashing twice with the same pupil, on 17th June and 19th June, Hayter returned to operations in early July 1941, when he joined 611 Squadron at Hornchurch.

On 10th July he destroyed a Me109 but crash-landed near Southend on the return from the sweep after his aircraft was badly damaged by flak. He destroyed Me109s on 14th July, 29th August and damaged another on 17th September.

He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 17th October 1941).


Above: Hayter's portrait was drawn by Cuthbert Orde who recorded 'Spud Hayter is a New Zealander, tough, steady and a damn good type.....'


On 1st March 1942 Hayter was given command of 274 Squadron at Landing Ground 92 in North Africa. He probably destroyed a Mc202 on 10th July and destroyed a Me109 on the 18th. At the end of September he was posted to Turkey to instruct Turkish pilots on Hurricanes. He went to Iran and took command of 74 Squadron at Mehrabad on 1st April 1943.

In May the squadron moved to Egypt, where it began convoy patrols and took part in Wing sweeps over Crete. In late September Hayter took nine squadron Spitfires to Antimachi airfield on Kos Island, in the Dodacanese.

On the 29th Ju88s put the airfield out of action and on 3rd October the Germans invaded Kos and overran the airfield. Hayter and four others took to the hills. After evading enemy patrols for several days, they met some men of the Special Boat Service and were taken off by boat on 8th October and put ashore on the Turkish coast. They reached Cyprus in a fishing boat on the 14th and Hayter flew back to Edku ten days later.

The squadron came together again on Christmas Day 1943 at Edku and began convoy patrols in January 1944. Hayter received a Mention in Despatches (gazetted 14th January 1944).



74 Squadron sailed from Port Said on 7th April for the UK and went to North Weald. Hayter received a second Mention in Despatches (gazetted 8th June 1944), took the squadron to France on 19th August and led 74 Squadron until 30th December when he was posted to Milfield for a course at the Fighter Leaders' School.

He was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 26th January 1945).

In mid-August 1945 Hayter sailed for New Zealand. He went on to the Reserve on December 28th.

He died on 3rd October 2006 in Tasman, South Island, NZ.

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