Wing Commander Brendan Eamonn Fergus Finucane

Image: (War Memorials Online): “Finucane Court, estate of four blocks of flats, Raleigh Road, Richmond, named in honour of Wing Commander Brendan “Paddy” Finucane. The plaque is on the block nearest the A316.”

From Wikipedia:

Brendan Finucane was born on 16 October 1920, the first child of Thomas and Florence Finucane of 13 Rathmines Road, Rathmines, Dublin, Ireland. In 1919, Florence had met Thomas Andrew Finucane, who had been involved in the Irish Rebellion. Thomas Finucane had been taught mathematics at college by Éamon de Valera, leader of the Irish opposition. As a member of the Irish Volunteers, he served under de Valera’s command in the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.

After a visit to England in July 1936 Thomas Finucane, now a company director, decided to establish an office in the West End of London. In November 1936, the family moved to England permanently and bought a house at 26 Castlegate, Richmond on Thames. Brendan was sent to Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School. Brendan completed his schooling with good qualifications. He started in an office job as an accountant, which he loathed…

…Finucane developed a friendship with the Australian pilot Keith Truscott, who joined Squadron 452 in May 1941. The two frequented Oddenino’s restaurant on Regent Street, a favourite among pilots in blacked-out London. Lew Stone the dance band leader played there. One evening he met Jean Woolford who was to become his fiancée. Whatever time Finucane could spend on leave was spent in Kew Gardens or Richmond Park with her…”

Brian Madden wrote in the Irish Times of 9.7.2002:

“By the time the much-decorated Dubliner, Brendan Finucane, was shot down by German gunfire in 1942, he was already the RAF’s youngest Wing Commander – yet little is known in his homeland about his exploits.

During the second World War a great many Irishmen fought with distinction in the British forces, perhaps few more so than a Dubliner, Brendan “Paddy” Finucane. Aged only 21 when he was shot down over the English Channel 60 years ago, on July 15th, the Royal Air Force pilot was already a much decorated fighter whose tally of confirmed enemy aircraft at the time of his death was 32, making him the fourth highest- scoring RAF pilot of the second World War. He was also the RAF’s youngest Wing Commander…

Brendan Finucane was born in 1920 in Rathmines, Dublin, to Andy and Florence Finucane. His father was Irish, his mother English. Brendan was the eldest of five children. When the family moved to Dublin’s Northside, he attended the O’Connell Schools CBS in North Richmond Street. He excelled at sport, becoming captain of the school’s first team, his leadership qualities being evident. He was a proficient boxer, rowed with Neptune Rowing Club and was a competitive swimmer.

In 1932, Brendan and his brother Raymond made a short flight at an air display at Baldonnel Aerodrome on the outskirts of Dublin. That year was also the start of a series of summer holidays in Southampton, where their aunt lived. There, Brendan and Raymond watched aircraft at nearby Eastleigh airfield and Brendan formed an ambition to be a fighter pilot. He left school in 1936. In November of that year, the family moved to Richmond, Surrey and Brendan took a clerical job in London. In 1938, his application to the RAF for a short service commission was successful and he was sent to flying school.

In June 1940, he was sent for training as a Spitfire pilot before being posted to 65 Squadron at Hornchurch in Essex…

A former intelligence officer of 452 Squadron said of Finucane: “He never had any personal animosity towards anyone. He was simply shooting them down because they were the enemy and therefore had to be shot down.” A second bar to his Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded in September.

In October 1941, he gave a talk on the BBC about his career as a fighter pilot. With characteristic modesty, he attributed his success “to his being blessed with a pair of good eyes and having learned to shoot straight”. He paid a warm tribute to the Australian pilots and went on to say: “One day, I’m planning to go to Australia and audit books.”…

On July 15th, 1942, he led his Wing on a mission to attack a German army camp in northern France, a few miles from Le Touquet. They crossed the English Channel at sea level, through a mist. As they flew over the French coast, a burst of German machine-gun fire from the ground hit the wing of Finucane’s Spitfire, puncturing the radiator. His Canadian wingman, Alan Aikman, called him over the radio and advised him that his aircraft was losing engine coolant. Finucane acknowledged the message and turned back over the Channel towards the English coast.

Escorted by Aikman, he ditched his Spitfire in the sea about 10 miles from Le Touquet. It sank immediately with Finucane still on board. It is thought that he may have been knocked unconscious by the impact.

Aikman sent a radio message and he and others searched the area without success. When news of his death became known, hundreds of tributes were received at the family’s home in Richmond. Thousands attended his Requiem Mass in Westminster Cathedral. The Mayor of Richmond launched a national appeal for a Finucane memorial.

At the very end, Wing Commander B. E. Finucane DSO, DFC was coolness itself. As his Spitfire plunged towards the sea, he calmly radioed his comrades, with the words: “This is it, chaps.” “.

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