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The Airmen's Stories - F/O R Hope


Ralph Hope was born in Birmingham on 18th July 1913, the son of Donald and Bertha Hope. He was related, on his mother's side, to Joseph, Austen and Neville Chamberlain. He was educated at Eton and New College, Oxford.

He won his rowing blue in 1935 and rowed bow in the University Boat Race.

Hope was also a keen rock climber and a member of the Oxford University Mountaineering Club and the Fell & Rock Climbing Club in the Lake District.



In 1936 Hope joined the family firm of metal window manufacturers. He went to the firm's subsidiary in Jamestown, New York in 1937, leaving Southampton on 13th August on the ss Bremen and returning on 14th March 1938 on the RMS Queen Mary.

He took flying lessons while in the USA.



Hope was awarded Aero Certificate 16007 at Reading Aero Club on 26th June 1938 and soon afterwards joined 605 Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force at Castle Bromwich.

He married Diana Beatrice Pyper, of Belfast, in July 1939 in Birmingham.

Hope was called to full-time service on 24th August 1939. On 9th May 1940 Hope shared in destroying a Do17 off Dunnet Head. He was shot down on 28th September by Me109s over Ticehurst and baled out, slightly injured. His Hurricane, P3828, crashed at Bewl Bridge, Lamberhurst.

The following is an extract from a subsequent letter to his family:

Saturday was not quite such a success from my point of view, as on our third patrol I lost my aircraft. We were at 21000 ft when we got involved with a squadron of Me109s. They got me before I even saw them, which is quite annoying. I first felt a kind of funny bump, and as I turned to see what was up, my controls suddenly felt funny, and lots of red sparks and black smoke appeared round my feet and a cloud of white smoke, probably glycol began streaming back from the engine. The aircraft began going downhill fast. I slid back the hood and began to get out, my goggles were stripped off and my helmet began to lift up in the slipstream. I realised I hadn't undone my straps so I pulled out the retaining pin and stood up, standing on anything which came handy (the seat, the instrument panel, top of the stick, I don't know really). The air seized hold of me and there was a wrench as my oxygen tube snapped off (I had forgotten to undo it) and I shot out into the sky. The aeroplane disappeared. It was nice and cool falling. I was head down of course but found the position quite comfortable, there was no sense of speed or feeling of falling. I had a look at the clouds below (they were about 4000-5000 feet) and then collected the odd bits of my helmet and had a look around. My parachute was still on my seat, both my boots were on, and I did not seem to have lost anything except my goggles, and a handkerchief and map which must have fallen out of the pockets in my knees when I first went upside-down. After a while I thought about pulling the rip cord. 'What about giving the old brolly a try out ?' I thought. I seemed to have fallen a goodish way, so I pulled. The canopy streamed out, there was a hard jerk, and there I was right side up, quite comfortable and floating slowly. Oh! so slowly earthwards. I was about 9 to 10000 ft so I had fallen free for about 8 or 9000 ft (from about 18000 ft) and might have fallen further with advantage. When I looked up I could see a shining white canopy above me, and little silver specks having no end of a dog-fight in the clear blue above me. A Spitfire dived down past me with a high pitched whine, but that was the only disturbance. The parachute began to swing me about and it wasn't long before I felt sick, very sick indeed in fact by the time I landed. It was fun going into the clouds, as the sun played a sort of 'Spectre of the Brocken' effect on my shadows as I approached them. When I emerged the countryside looked pleasantly open, and after drifting quite a way I thought I saw where I should land. Two farm hands had the same idea. We were all wrong as in spite of attempts on my part to avoid it, I came down in a spinney of young trees, pulling up short about 20 feet from the ground, hanging in my harness. I managed to get hold of a trunk, pull myself over to it, get out of the parachute harness and climb to the ground, where I remained quite still until I was found. The Army soon took charge of me, gave me a drink and some lunch, and drove me back to Croydon. The only damage I sustained was a hefty bruise on my right shoulder from hitting the tail as I jumped, and a bruise on my leg, and a torn trouser from the somewhat unceremonious descent through the upper branches of the oak tree. Now I go about with my arm in a sling, feeling particularly good as I have been given a week's sick leave.



On 14th October a He111 dropped a bomb close to Croydon airfield, four aircraft were scrambled in pursuit in very poor visibility. Hope flew into the Inner Artillery Zone and was killed in his Hurricane, P3107, either by striking a balloon cable or being shot down by anti-aircraft fire. His Hurricane crashed in Tennison Road, South Norwood.

The Squadron ORB recorded 'Apart from being the only 605 Squadron auxiliary still in the squadron his charming personality and quiet sense of humour and stability will be much missed by everyone in the squadron'.

Many eyewitness reports claimed that he remained in the aircraft to guide it towards some open ground used by allotments resulting in his bailing out too late for his parachute to open (see below).

Hope was cremated at St John's Crematorium, Woking.


Additional research courtesy of Stephen Reid of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club and 'We Never Slept - The Story of 605 Squadron' by Ian Piper.














Hope's sister, Bertha Margaret (born in 1902 and known as Margaret) married in 1921 John Henry Godfrey, who was a Royal Navy officer who had served in the Gallipoli campaign. He commanded the battle cruiser HMS Repulse in the Mediterranean (1936-1938), including protection of international shipping from aggressive actions by both sides in the Spanish Civil War. At the end of this appointment he was made CB earlier than was considered usual.

From 1939 to 1942 he was Director Naval Intelligence. From 1943 to 1946 he was Flag Officer Commanding Royal Indian Navy and retired from the Royal Navy with the rank of Admiral.

His wife headed the Indian Women's Voluntary Service.

While he was at Naval Intelligence one of Godfrey's subordinates was Commander Ian Fleming. It is sometimes claimed that Godfrey was a model for the spy chief 'M' in the 'James Bond' novels subsequently written by Fleming.



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