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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. B W Hopton


Bernard Walter Hopton was born in 1920 in Forest Hill, south east London, the son of Frederick Gilbert and Minnie May Hopton (nee Butcher).

His father had served in the Royal Sussex Regiment and was shown in the 1939 register as a Solicitors Managing Clerk. BW Hopton joined the RAFVR about February 1939 as an Airman u/t Pilot. Called up on 1st September, he completed his elementary flying training at 7 EFTS Desford.

He moved on to 10 FTS Ternhill for No. 19 Course which ran from 11th April to 24th July 1940. Hopton arrived at 5 OTU on 3rd August and converted to Hurricanes.

After joining 600 Squadron at Manston on the 19th he made his first flight, probably in a Blenheim, on 24th August and on the 27th he joined 615 Squadron at Prestwick, to fly Hurricanes.

Hopton went to 73 Squadron at Castle Camps on 15th September and then moved to 66 Squadron at West Malling on 24th October. On 14th November Hopton probably destroyed a Me109 near Dover.

He was killed on 6th August 1941, as a Sergeant with 616 Squadron when the squadron Magister, L5985, crashed on take-off at RAF Perranporth. It had been caught in a strong updraught over the cliff.

His passenger LAC GA Monks survived.

Hopton was 21 and was buried on 13th August in Ladywell Cemetery, Lewisham, London, in the same grave as his brother, Clifford Gilbert Hopton (1914-1921).





Below: his papers contained a poem by an unknown hand.


We mourn for you dear Bernard upon this funeral day,
And grieve your untimely passing far more than we can say,
We have followed you to the graveside where you have gone ahead,
To find that happy resting place reserved for the glorious dead.

When the call for duty came to defend your Motherland,
You did not hesitate to answer it in a way that we thought grand,
You joined the Royal Air Force whose praise the world now sings,
And by your courage and your daring you earned your pilot's wings.

In that great Battle of Britain which Churchill described so true,
We were of the many, but you were one of the few,
Your bravery and your fearlessness which you so modestly obscured,
Were not lost upon those of us who knew what you endured.

You did not boast your sucesses or recount your glorious deeds,
Yet we know that you accounted for three of the Hun's "ME's",
We owe you a debt of gratitude that we can ne'er repay,
For the valiant part that you took in keeping the enemy at bay.

No more will you sweep the Channel skies in your winged chariot of fire,
To seek the enemy in his lair and cause him to retire,
But we humbly salute you, Bernard, for your gallantry in these scenes,
As we know by your example what "per Ardua ad Astra" means.

No more shall we see your happy smile or hear your cheery call,
Which made your nature beautiful and endeared you to us all,
For you have flown your last great flight, your life to your Maker to give,
While we stand here and reverently say "He died that we might live".



Battle of Britain Monument