Brendan "Paddy" Finucane, RAF #2 Ace....

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By Maurice Byrne.

He was the youngest Wing Commander in Fighter Command of the Royal Air Force And one of the highest scoring Allied pilots of the Second World War – all achieved in a space of two years. He was killed in action just months short of his 22nd. Birthday.

It is now nearly sixty years since the end of that war and most people in Ireland alive today have little knowledge or interest in the events of that time . We in Ireland were neutral and therefore no need to fight. But for all that over 100,000 southern Irishmen and men and women fought for the Allied cause. Much has been written about their bravery and courage but this article concentrates on a person who is practically unknown in his native land. His name: Brendan Finucane, or Paddy, as the British and Australian public knew him.

He was born in Rathmines on Oct.16 1920 to Andy and Florence Finucane, His father fought on de Valera's side in the 1916 Rising and his mother was English born. Brendan was the eldest of five children , Raymond, Kevin, Monica and Clare, all of whom are alive and living in Britain. Raymond who followed Brendan into the R.A.F. also flew Spitfires and Kevin served in the British Army.

Baldonnel was where it all started when their father arranged for Brendan and Raymond to have a short flight in 1932. Both lads had the flying bug from reading about the real life exploits of Albert Ball and Mick Mannock and other stories of World War 1 air aces.

The family moved around quite a bit and Brendan was educated initially at Synge St. C.B.S. and finished his education at O'Connell Schools. Even at that early age Brendan's skills of organisation and determination were beginning to show through. He excelled at rugby, Gaelic football, boxing and rowing and by all accounts seemed to enjoy the challenge. The year was 1936 and many changes were in store for the Finucane family. Brendan finished his education with a reasonable schools certificate and took an accounts job with a firm in Sandymount, where the family had moved.

In late 1936 the family left Ireland to move to Richmond near London where Brendan's father had been offered a new position as a company director. Brendan and the family were no strangers to England having spent their summer holidays with relatives near Southampton. And accounts job held no great interest for young Brendan and with parental blessing he applied for and received a short service commission with the R.A.F.

He began his flying training in the summer of 1938 and through great determination and will power eventually earned his wings; his rating was average. After several postings he applied for and was accepted for a training course on Spitfires in June 1940. the next month he was posted to 65 Squadron at Hornchurch and Pilot Officer Brendan Finucane 41276 was about to enter action in the most crucial part of Britain's survival.

His first operational mission in late July `1940 was not a great success as his aircraft developed a leak and he had to crash land. On the 12th. Of August he began his distinguished career by shooting down an Me 109 with bursts from his 8 Browning .303 machine gun to as close at 50 yards. Finucane had listened well to his gunnery instructor and got as near as possible to ensure maximum damage to the enemy aircraft,

In early September 1940 he was promoted to Flying officer and was praised highly in a report which said that he had great leadership ability and was a quick and adept learner. The squadron moved to Scotland for rest purposes before returning to Tangmere in late November where the weather put paid to any real flying until the New Year. He started 1941 by shooting a Me 110 twin , engined heavily armed fighter and doggedly attacked up to four times to ensure a hit. By April he had shot down five enemy aircraft officially making him an ace. The Squadron now moved to Lincolnshire to carry out fighter sweeps over France. Promoted again to Flight Lieutenant he was awarded the D.F.C. and his log book endorsed exceptional by the Squadron Commander. The next move of his career was to bring him fame and acclaim worldwide.

Brendan was now with 452 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force as a flight commander sharing the same airfield at Kirton-in-Lindsay with 65 Squadron. The Australians were a different type of pilot and totally unlike the men he had served with up to now. He knew that he has to make his name and train these fresh pilots to the standard that would ensure their survival in the coming battles. Toughness and fairness in equal measure and making sure that the ground crews who were the backbone of the service were looked after, became his trademark.

In July 1941 452 Squadron began its first fighter mission over France along with other squadrons in No. 11 Fighter Group. The idea was to take the fight to the enemy and to keep Luftwaffe forces in France fully occupied. Large numbers of fighters escorted medium bombers in the hope of enticing the Germans into situations where they were heavily outnumbered by the R.A.F. aircraft. In reality the Germans fought when it suited them and only when the odds were in their favour.

Having been equipped with the new cannon-armed MK VB Spitfire the Squadron moved to Kenley to join 602 (Glasgow) and 485 (New Zealand) Squadrons to make a new fighter wing. From July to September 1941 Finucane destroyed or partly damaged 14 enemy aircraft and for this, and the fighting spirit he instilled in his squadron, he was awarded two bars to his D.F.C. The Press by this stage had not failed to realise the propaganda value of an Irish ace flying with the shamrock painted under his cockpit.

In October 1941 Brendan was awarded the D.S.O. an award only second to the Victoria Cross. In the citation it mentioned his brilliant leadership and example. By this stage his score had risen to 24 enemy aircraft and the Press and media attention had become global with articles about his exploits in Australian and American newspapers. Finucane himself did not relish all this attention and was a very modest and unassuming young man. One of his ground crew had, unknown to him, painted swastikas on his aircraft denoting his number of victories but Brendan was very quick to have them removed.

There is a very evocative photograph in Doug Stoke's fine book Paddy Finucane Fighter Ace, of Brendan, accompanied by his brother Raymond and his mother, Florence leaving Buckingham Palace after receiving his D.S.O. A non-flying accident prevented any more combat duties until Jan. 1942 when he was promoted to Squadron Leader in charge of 602 Squadron (Glasgow) based at Redhill which was part of the Kenley wing. The Station Commander was another noted Irishman, Group Captain Victor Beamish, and they got on very well together. Sadly Beamish was lost in action in March 1942 at the age of 38.

In February 1942 Finucane was wounded in the leg after a fierce encounter with a new German fighter which had just entered service. The was the Focke-Wulf 190, an aircraft that was to give the Fighter Command and the Spitfire Mk Vs a lot of trouble until the later models arrived. An engagement of a totally different sort however was announced in April when Jean Woolford, a girl Brendan had known for several years, agreed to marry him. They were a very close and loving couple according to those who knew them.

However the war was still to be fought and the strain of taking it to the enemy was taking its toll on the R.A.F. In a very short space of time they had lost some very experienced wing commanders such as Bader, Stanford-Tuck, Beamish with very little to show for it. Combat figures issued after the war showed that the losses suffered by Fighter Command were on the order of 4: 1. Books written after the war by many famous fighter pilots all agreed on their hatred of these missions.

In May 1942 Brendan's score had risen to 32 which equalled Wing Commander 'Sailor' Malan who was now non-operational. The strain of these combat hours was beginning to tell as can be seen in photographs of Brendan in the summer of '42. Along with most pilots at that time he did not take small arms ground fire very seriously, as he told a visiting army captain. In Brendan's case this proved to be ironic. He was promoted to Wing Commander (the R.A.F equivalent of the Army's Lt.Colonel) at Hornchurch on June 21st. – an amazing achievement at the age of 21. He continued to lead his three squadrons on daily raids over France and he admitted to family members that he was very tired.

With his wingman, Canadian Al Aikman, Brendan flew on July 15 , 1942 to strafe and shoot-up targets in France. His aircraft's underwing radiator was hit by a burst of machine gun fire which caused it to leak coolant and he climbed for height to get home across the Channel. Ten miles out from the French coast he decided to ditch as the engine was overheating. He made a perfect landing on the sea. It is now thought that his head went forward and the gunsight knocked him unconscious. The aircraft sank instantly taking Brendan with it. His aircraft was never found.
I'm very new at all this and have just found this website - fascinating to know that there are so many people interested in Brendan and that the family is so widely dispersed. I grew up hearing stories about Brendan from my father and uncle in Southampton England. Brendan and my father, Joseph Physick, were first cousins. Brendan often visited my grandmother in Swaything Southampton for holidays or breaks, even during the war I think. I thought he had a sister Kathleen but have never heard of a Charlotte.

Anyway, really enjoyed reading your article. I also have the book written all about Brendan which I'm sure you know.

Mary Pascoe-Price, Edmonton, Canada.
Welcome to the site! That's a fascinating tidbit of history you've got there. What I wouldn't give to be related to the RAF's #2 ace..

Enjoy your stay here! :D
First of all I like to apologies for my bad English
But I life in Belgium and we speak Dutch
so I hope you don't mind I make mistakes in my writings

I added
By Maurice Byrne
to the text

Seeya and have a nice weekend
I was rummaging thru' some old family memorabilia tonight and came upon some of my father's old wartime photographs and remembered a story that he told me when I was but a mere lad. So I thought I'd Google 'Paddy Finucane' and see what came up.

Imagine my surprise when the first link I checked came from my favourite website!

The connection?

My Dad always said he was Paddy's Engine fitter……….
Hi everyone,

I went to an estate sale and found a load of photos and paper cuttings belonging to the Duncan family.

just to let any people know who are doing any research on Paddy Finucane.

He was best man to Pilot officer Allan Ebert Just 5 months before his death.


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Good post
is it worth creating a sub-forum for people who want to take the time to profile the personalities of air wars?

I have a (somewhat tenuous) connection with him too. My PV (positive vetting) was carried out by a descendant of Finucane; I say descendant because I can't damn well remember in what way, I think he said nephew but I can't be sure, he may just have been married into the family.
He was a retired Brigadier and looked down his dossier on me and noted that I was interested in WWII aviation. He said he had a connection and gave me a clue - Paddy. Of course, I got it completely wrong and said "Oh, Paddy Barthropp?" Nope.
He told me eventually and we spent a large part of my PV talking about him, the war and the aircraft involved.
I want to build Paddy's Spit Vb, he had a shamrock painted near the cockpit.


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