Like many ‘Wild Geese’ before him Brendan ‘Paddy’ Finucane had no hesitation in joining the RAF at the outbreak of the Second World War.
With Europe in ruins and the world’s freedom threatened by a maniacal despot, his natural instincts were to ‘stand fast’ and to fight oppression.
Born in Dublin, the eldest of five children and still a teenager, he enlisted into the air force and after training in Spitfires was sent to an Australian
squadron (RAAF) at RAF Kenley, South of Croydon, Surrey.
Knowing the life expectancy for a fighter pilot was days if not hours he, like Irish hero General Sarsfield, led from the front, becoming the youngest
Wing Commander in RAF history. ‘Paddy’ was accredited with 28 ‘kiils’, possibly even 32 according to some sources, and he created a ‘wing’
of Australians around him, who loved and respected him and as a squadron became famous for their exploits.
But he knew in his heart that the dream of one day returning to his beloved Ireland like all ‘Wild Geese’ would sadly never happen as would
his desire to visit Australia.
Posted to 122 squadron as Wing Commander in the ‘front line’ Hornchurch Aerodrome at the age of 21, time was running out.
Having survived being ‘hit’ numerous times, once crash landing when his undercarriage had been shot away, in July 1942 122 Squadron
were briefed to attack a target near Etaples in France, accompanied by 154 and 81squadron and surprise was to be the key element.
The Spitfires he flew always had a large Shamrock painted on the fuselage, so whether (like the Red Baron) he became a known target,
we will never know, but it wasn’t a German fighter who got him but lucky fire from ground flak.
His wingman, pilot Aikman reported a ‘white plume of smoke’ coming from his Wing Commander’s engine (radiator steam) and followed him
down to sea level, with ‘Paddy’ calmly talking to his wingman and a determination to succeed and get his ‘Spit’ back to England to fight another day.
Unfortunately the Merlin V12 engine without it’s glycol coolant, overheats in a matter of minutes and ‘Paddy’ was last seen sliding back his canopy and removing
his helmet, his final calm statement to Aikman was ‘this is it Butch’.
Whether he felt he was too low to ‘jump’ or perhaps he was wounded, his plane hit the water in a low glide, before disappearing in a massive spray of water.
Wing Commander ‘Paddy’ Finucane at 21 never realised all his ambitions but with his strength and courage did succeed in his most important belief,
FREEDOM FOR EVERYONE