An article I had written in September 2020, but that I had forgotten to published
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
” ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT DID -NOT RETURN “
SALUTE TO A DEAD NIGHT FIGHTER
By HELEN KIRKPATRICK
Correspondent in London of the Chicago Daily News
Phil, the ace of X Squadron, was 21 on July 27. Phil was good. There were few in the squadron as good as he at hovering around those German aerodromes in France and getting the Jerries as they came back, all unsuspecting, from their raids on Britain.
As they came flying in the landing lights would go on, and the Heinkels would swing confidently to ground. That was Phil’s moment. Sneaking in out of the darkness he’d let go his stick of bombs, then swooping down he’d give his machine-gun full play on the landing-field.
No one quite knew what Phil’s bag was. His rear gunner made it well over 20 German planes, but Phil would never say. The older men in the squadron—Jack, who is 26, and Andy, the wild Australian who’s nearly 24, put Phil’s record down to his youth.
The young are reckless, they said, and a good pilot needs a dash of recklessness. That’s why they were worried when Phil decided to get married.
Married men develop care; they’re less inclined to be reckless, and many a good pilot has crashed because he was too careful. At least, that’s the verdict of the old men of X Squadron.
Courtesy Becky Scoles
But Phil had made up his mind to get married. So the squadron turned out in force on Sept. 1, when the wedding took place. Phil’s wife came down to the little village near the aerodrome, and every night when Phil had brought his Havoc back from harrying the Nazis he went home to the small cottage.
Every night, that is, for five nights after his wedding. The sixth night Phil was late in getting back, and by dawn the boys knew he wasn’t coming just now.
Pilots turn up in the oddest ways, sometimes 10 days later. Within a fortnight, anyway, the boys know whether a pilot has made a crash landing and been captured.
There’s been no news of Phil, but a bomber crew coming back from Brest that night say they saw a Havoc manoeuvring too carefully over an aerodrome with a deadly-looking Messerschmitt about to pounce on it.
There’s a new W.A.A.F. officer who’s just been posted to X Squadron. Her name’s Mrs Phil.