First British air combat losses
The first RAF pilot to be killed in action in the Second World War was a victim of a ‘friendly fire’ incident. On 6th September 1939 two Hurricanes of 56 Squadron were shot down over the River Medway in Kent by Spitfires of 74 Squadron. Pilot Officer Montague Leslie Hulton-Harrop died in the incident which became known as the Battle of Barking Creek.
Fastest air combat victory
On 8 October 1940 (one day before John Lennon's birth), RAF Speke was witness to what is thought to be the fastest air-to-air combat kill in the Battle of Britain and possibly of all time. Flight Lieutenant Denys Gillam took off in his Hawker Hurricane from Speke to be confronted by a Junkers 88A, M7+DK of 2/KGr806, passing across him. Along with Alois Vašátko and Josef Stehlík flying Hurricanes L1926 and L1807, Gillam took part in the shooting down of the Junkers while his undercarriage was still retracting. Credit for the kill was given to the whole of 312 Squadron, was credited with the kill but the moment was caught in a painting by Robert Taylor called Fastest Victory which depicts Gillam’s Hurricane ding the deed. Because of modern detection technology this fastest victory record is not likely to ever be beaten.
Hurricane I P2575 of Flown by Flight Lieutenant Denys Gillam of 312 Squadron RAF took part in the fastest air combat victory
During World War II, the airport where this action took place was taken over by the Royal Air Force and known as RAF Speke. Rootes built many bombers in a ‘shadow factory’ here, including Bristol Blenheims and Handley Page Halifaxes. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation assembled many aircraft types shipped here from the United States via Liverpool Docks including Hudsons and Mustangs. The airport was also home to the Merchant Ship Fighter Unit training Hurricat pilots and technicians. The John Lennon connection is interesting because the airfield today is known as John Lennon Airport.
Sea Fury prototype
In April 1948, Hawker test pilot Bill Humble took the first Sea Fury prototype, NX798 marked with civilian registration G-AKRY, to Egypt to demonstrate in an aerobatic display. The display of aerobatics and high-speed passes took place on the 24th at Almaza AB and caused the exited crowd to swarm over the aircraft once it had landed.
On the 27th, Humble took the aircraft for a ten-minute test flight as preparation to his homeward journey. When he returned later he found that the aircraft had been moved from the civil side to the military side of the airfield. It had been impounded by the authorities and handed over to the Royal Egyptian Air Force.
The Sea Fury was fitted with four cannon with gun camera taken from a Spitfire, four bomb carriers and armour protection for the pilot. It also had REAF markings and the serial number 701 applied. It is reported that this aircraft had scored its first kill against the Israeli Air Force on 19th June but was lost in the Mediterranean on the same day during a desperate evasive manoeuvre.
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