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Last Sortie

  • Sean Maffett
  • Interview by: Ewan Burnet


My uncle Gerard's last sortie was on

the 31st of August, 1940,

which was a Saturday, it was hazy but quite sunny.

It turned out to be the worst day of the battle

for the Royal Air Force as a whole,

and a lot of people died, of which my Uncle Gerard was one.

Nobody knows quite what happened to him.

We've never been able to find out.

What is clear is that he seemed to be heading home,

he may have had a jammed gun.

There's been some suggestion of that.

And he was attacked by a German fighter, presumably,

which put the aircraft out of action.

He was something like 50,000 feet,

and the aircraft was seen to spiral down.

And people watching on the ground

were waiting for the pilot to bail out,

jump out onto his parachute, but nothing happened

until the aircraft got down to about 400 feet above

the ground when it turned over and the pilot,

Uncle Gerard, came out.

400 feet was too low for the parachute to open,

so the aircraft crashed into the sands and the marshes

just off the coast of a place called Tamarisk Wall,


He died when he hit the ground.

His parachute presumably hadn't fully deployed.

400 feet was way too low.

There had been some suggestion

that he might have taken an injury in his back

because there's a hole in the...

There's a hole in the armor plating

at the back of his pilot's seat.

But, there's some later evidence from the policeman

who actually was the first to come upon Uncle Gerard's body,

who said that he didn't appear to be injured at all,

he just had a little trickle of blood from one of his ears,

but no major injuries, such as would have occurred

had his back been injured by a cannon shell.

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