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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. E L Hetherington


Erik Lawson Hetherington, from Northumberland, was born in early 1918 in Hartlepool, the son of Thomas Liddell Hetherington and Hilda Maria Hetherington.

EL Hetherington was educated at Askville College, Harrogate and was subsequently employed by the Midland Bank in Newcastle.

He joined the RAFVR about July 1939 as an Airman u/t Pilot.

Called up on 1st September, he completed his training at 7 EFTS and 10 FTS, Tern Hill and arrived at 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on 17th August 1940.

After converting to Hurricanes he was posted to 601 Squadron at Exeter on 11th September and served with them for the remainder of the Battle.



Commissioned in July 1941, Hetherington was posted to 611 Squadron at Homchurch in the autumn. In April 1942 he was posted overseas. He embarked on the carrier USS Wasp and flew off in a Spitfire on 10th May for Malta, where he joined 249 Squadron.

Hetherington claimed a Me109 destroyed on 10th May. He then claimed a Mc202 destroyed on 12th July, a Ju88 damaged on the 23rd, a Me109 damaged on 27th August, shared a Mc202 on 2nd September, damaged a Me109 on the 16th, damaged a Ju88 on 13th October, probably destroyed a Ju88 on the 14th, damaged another Ju88 on the 16th and destroyed a Me109 on the 17th.

Hetherington made crash landings on July 7th and 14th after his Spitfires were damaged in combat.

He was made a Flight Commander in July and awarded the DFC (gazetted 3rd November 1942).

Tour-expired, Hetherington was on his way back to the UK in a Liberator on 31st October 1942. While attempting to land at Gibraltar, Liberator II AL516 of No 511 Squadron crashed into the sea and broke in half. Trapped in the rear half, Hetherington was drowned. Also lost were:

Sgt DWJ Spencer
P/O JW Williams DFC RCAF
F/Lt EH Glazebrook DFC RCAF

Hetherington was 24 years old and is remembered on the Gibraltar Memorial in the North Front Cemetery in Gibraltar.



Battle of Britain Monument