Brendan "Paddy" Finucane
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The story of Wing Commander Brendan (‘Paddy’) Finucane, (DSO, DFC and bar), is an amazing story of an Irishman who became one of the most decorated Spitfire Ace’s during the Battle of Britain. With the highest number of ‘kills’ (32), Finucane was the youngest Wing Commander in the RAF all before his 22nd birthday. Paddy was both the leader of his Squadron, and an inspirational leader to his pilots and ground crew. With his Shamrock crested Spitfire emblazoned with his initials, Paddy achieved one of the highest kill rates in RAF history.

Paddy was born in Dublin on the 16th day of October 1920, the first child of Thomas and Florence Finucane. He was followed shortly by a brother, Ray, another brother Kevin, and then two sisters, Monica and Claire. He became an all around sportsman, excelling at Rugby, Football, Boxing and Rowing. His family immigrated to Richmond, Surrey England in November of 1936. Having always dreamed about flying through the heavens, Paddy joined the RAF in August 1938 and was posted to 65 Squadron at Hornchurch on July 13th, 1940. In late April 1941 he was posted to 452 Squadron as Flight Commander. In January 1942 Finucane was given command of 602 Squadron. He was then appointed Wing Commander flying out of Hornchurch on June 27th, 1942.

During the Battle of Britain, Finucane destroyed his first Bf l09 on August 12th, 1940, getting a second a day later. As his victory tally rose, the word of his heroics spread throughout England. On April 15, 1941, Paddy crossed paths with one of Germany’s highest decorated pilot’s in history, Oberstleutnant Adolf Galland. Commanding JG 26, Galland decided to join a birthday celebration for General Theo Osterkamp and personally deliver some lobsters and oysters for his party. Galland's crew chief placed the goods in Galland's new Bf 109F fighter just before takeoff. Galland's flight plan would take himself and his wingman, from Brest to Le Touquet, France, the site of the party, but en-route to Le Touquet, Galland decided that a detour to England was in order. His hunter instinct paid off near Dover, as they both surprised a large flight of Spitfires on maneuvers. Paddy Finucane was leading that group of Spitfires. Galland’s instincts proved deadly as he managed to down three Spitfire Mk. IIs. As Galland flew through the formation, Paddy rolled out from above and targeted Galland. The hunter became the hunted and Finucane riddled Galland’s aircraft with shells. Galland bailed out of his flaming Bf-109 near the coast of France. He was rescued hours later. Suffice it to say, Galland never made it to Osterkamp’s party as Paddy claimed Galland as a victory!

Said Finucane, “I shoot to hit the machine, not the lad in it; at least I hold him no grudge, but I have to let him have it. See him first before he sees you, hit him when you fire as you might not have a second chance”.

The only time Paddy was wounded in combat came on February of 1942. Paddy went out over Dunkirk in a daylight sweep with his squadron. After an hour of dodging and dog fighting in the clouds over the French coast, a German gunner put a shell through the cockpit of the Flying Shamrock. A sharp piece of shattered plate ripped Paddy’s thigh from knee to hip. As he put it later, “ The cockpit was awash with blood. It was not until I was feeling a bit sick and dizzy did it dawn on me that it was my blood!”…“Good Dublin blood should not be wasted!”…“How I even managed to land without a crack-up will never be known, luck of the Irish triumphed that day if ever!”…Five weeks later and mended, the British headlines read, “Finucane Flies Again!” Model airplanes of his Spitfire with the vivid green Shamrocks were sold all along Piccadilly Circus and The Strand. Small boys robbed their Mother’s purses in haste in order to own one! These were treasured reminders that the greatest flying Ace was again winging his way across the murky channel to protect England. Even the German pilots were aware as word spread to, “Get Finucane of the Shamrock!”

After attacking German shipping at Ostend and strafing three German airfields on July 15th, 1942, Finucane’s wing regrouped to return to Hornchurch. As the group passed low-level over the beach at Pointe Du Touquet, Finucane’s Spitfire was hit by machine gun fire that severely damaged his radiator. The engine overheated and quit, and the Spitfire was too low to allow Finucane to bail out. Losing altitude swiftly, Paddy was heard to say; “This is it, Chaps” He crashed into the sea, and despite all efforts, was never to be seen again. At the time of his death, Wing Commander Finucane’s score stood at an amazing 32 victories.

This autographed photo of Finucane (also courtesy of Mr. Heyler) dates from early 1942. It was autographed by Finucane for Flight Lieutenant J.G. Sanderson, an Australian assigned to Finucane at Redhill. Sanderson (in the middle?) sent this photo home to his Mother at the height of Paddy’s success. The item was acquired through the Sanderson Estate in Australia.