‘The fur was flying everywhere…
Suddenly I was “bullet stitched” right across the cockpit.’
“From left, standing: P/Os HC Upton, AEA van den Hove d’Éstsenrijk (Belgium), and David Gorrie; seated, from left, P/Os Frank Carey (adjutant) [Signatory 27], F/L J.I. Kilmartin [Signatory 35], S/L George Lott [Signatory 11](who lost an eye in combat on 9 July 1940), F/L RC Reynell and S/L CB Hull DFC (South African).“
Just three hours after this photograph of eight Hurricane pilots from 43 Squadron ‘relaxing’ outside the Officer’s Mess at Tangmere was taken on 7 September 1940 – a week before Battle of Britain Day – two of them, Richard Reynell and Caesar Hull, were killed in action. Of the six left, van Den Hove would die a week later, on Battle of Britain Day itself. David Gorrie would die in a mid-air collision on April 8th, 1941. Of the half then left, Upton died in 1965.
The remaining three are They Were There: Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat signatories – alongside the sister of Caesar Hull, Wendy Bryan [Signatory 6].
“The Hun aircraft were all over the place. You just took off, and there they were.”
‘Group Captain Frank Carey, who died on December 6 2004 aged 92, was one of the highest scoring fighter pilots of the 1939-45 War; he earned 25 “kills” in the Battle of Britain and in Burma, as well as several shared victories.Carey’s career was all the more remarkable for the fact that he entered the RAF in 1927 as a 15-year-old apprentice, a “Halton brat”.He was first employed as a ground crew fitter and metal rigger before being selected in 1935 for a pilot’s course. He was then posted as a sergeant pilot to No 43 Squadron, the Fighting Cocks, whose aircraft he had been servicing.Demonstrating exceptional panache in the Hawker Fury biplane fighter, Carey was selected for the squadron’s renowned aerobatics team which took part in many air displays. In early 1939, No 43 Squadron was re-equipped at Tangmere, Sussex, with the eight-gun Hurricane fighter.
Carey opened his account at Acklington in Northumberland, when he shared in the destruction of several Heinkel shipping raiders during the cold winter of 1939-40.
This was followed by a short spell at Wick defending the fleet at Scapa Flow before he was commissioned as a pilot officer and posted with No 3 Hurricane Squadron to Merville in France after the German invasion. “We patrolled the front line wherever it happened to be at the time,” he recalled. “The Hun aircraft were all over the place. You just took off, and there they were.”