The lawyer who shot down bombers

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by Capt Bill, Oct 16, 2009.

  1. Capt Bill

    Capt Bill wanderin off at a tangent

    BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | South of Scotland | The lawyer who shot down bombers

    By day, Patrick Gifford worked as a lawyer with the family firm in a quiet south of Scotland town.
    But at evenings and weekends he was flying a fighter plane as an auxiliary with the Royal Air Force.
    It was in this role that he played a historic but relatively unknown part in World War II.
    Exactly 70 years ago - near Prestonpans in East Lothian - he shot down the first enemy bomber to be destroyed in British airspace during the conflict.
    Born in 1910 in Castle Douglas, in Dumfries and Galloway, Patrick Gifford came from farming stock.
    His father set up a legal firm in the town and, after being educated in Melrose, Sedbergh in Cumbria and Edinburgh, his son joined him there.
    With a passion for fast cars, he was also quickly attracted to flying.
    He joined 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron Auxiliary Air Force based at RAF Turnhouse, now Edinburgh Airport, where he gained his wings in 1932.
    Wager won
    The young lawyer appears to have been something of an extravagant figure.
    He once made a bet that he could set off in his car from the clock tower in Castle Douglas, drive to Turnhouse in Edinburgh and be back over the clock tower in an aeroplane within two hours.
    He won the wager with only minutes to spare.
    Shortly after war was declared in September 1939, the 603 squadron was re-equipped with new Spitfires.
    [​IMG] The young pilot joined the family law firm in Castle Douglas

    A few weeks later, on Monday 16 October 1939, the Luftwaffe launched its first attack against targets in British airspace - Royal Navy ships in the Firth of Forth.
    A dozen Junkers 88 twin-engined dive-bombers in waves of three were spotted approaching the Scottish coast, between Dunbar and Berwick upon Tweed, heading towards Edinburgh and the Forth Bridge.
    The first two waves of enemy aircraft attacked the ships but, Spitfires from 602, based in East Lothian, and 603 squadrons scrambled to intercept them as they tried to make their escape.
    Flight Lieutenant Gifford was leading a section of three planes from 603.
    On patrol near Dalkeith, they found themselves confronted with a fleeing German bomber heading towards them, which had been caught by another 603 section.
    Squadron leader
    The young Galloway man and his pilots swiftly got on its tail as it headed north, each sprayed it with bullets as it dropped lower and lower.
    Fl Lt Gifford fired the last shots into it before it flopped into the sea, not far from Prestonpans.
    Another two German aircraft were also shot down on the same day.
    Fl Lt Gifford was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and promoted to Squadron Leader.
    He went on to command a regular RAF squadron, one of the first auxiliary officers to do so.
    [​IMG] It is hoped a memorial can be put up to Gifford in his home town

    In May 1940, he took his squadron to France to take part in the fighting after the German invasion.
    Within a few days the Castle Douglas lawyer's Hawker Hurricane was shot down over Belgium.
    His body was never found and he has no known grave.
    His death was reported widely and many tributes paid.
    Before the war, he had briefly served as a councillor in Castle Douglas and a special meeting of the town council expressed sadness that he had been lost in action.
    The Gifford name lives on today through the local legal firm of Gillespie, Gifford and Brown although nobody with the name is involved with the business.
    However, he is otherwise largely a forgotten figure.
    The 603 Squadron Association is working with Dumfries and Galloway Council to change that.
    It hopes to erect a memorial to the young lawyer turned fighter pilot in the grounds of Castle Douglas library.
    The target date for completion is 16 May 2010 - exactly 70 years after his final mission.
  2. adamcotton

    adamcotton Senior Member

    Gifford's story in the combat mentioned above was told fully in an article in a recent issue of "Britain at War" magazine.

    Although Gifford was referred to as "young", it is worth remembering that, in fighter pilot terms, at 29 when he shot down his German, he was positively "old", as were many of the auxillaries....
  3. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    From FCL Vol.1 - Franks.

    15 May 1940
    3 Squadron
    Hurricane I L1610
    S/L. P. Gifford DFC (safe)

    Force-landed near Wevelghem and abandoned aircraft.

    16 May 1940.
    3 Squadron
    Hurricane I P2825
    S/L. P. Gifford DFC +

    Shot down in combat with Me110s of ZG1.NKG. Aged 30.

    CWGC :: Casualty Details

    Initials: P
    Nationality: United Kingdom
    Rank: Squadron Leader
    Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force (Auxiliary Air Force)
    Unit Text: 3 Sqdn.
    Age: 30
    Date of Death: 16/05/1940
    Service No: 90188
    Awards: D F C
    Additional information: Son of Patrick and Helene Alma Gifford.
    Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
    Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 4.
  4. Buteman

    Buteman 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA

    A memorial was recently dedicated on September 29, 2009 to another of his 603 Squadron colleagues.

    The Shoreham Battle of Britain Museum, Kent (as part of it’s ongoing commitment to honour Pilots killed in the area), have dedicated a 6th Memorial and this took place at a ceremony at the Woolwich Barracks in London.

    Army staff kindly gave permission for this event to take place.

    On the 27th August 1940, 603 (City of Edinburgh) RAF Aux Squadron arrived at Hornchurch in Essex (12 Group) to help bolster an already stretched Fighter Command.

    On the 31st August 1940, Flying Officer Robin “Bubble” Waterstone was on patrol in his Spitfire I (X4273) at 18:30 hrs and was shot down by a BF 109 from JG 3 over London.

    Saturday the 31st of August 1940
    (Fighter Command's suffered it’s heaviest losses on this day.)

    Weather: Generally fair with much haze in the South and the Channel.

    Day: Conditions are ideal for the Luftwaffe to avoid interception over the Channel and attacks are launched in continuous waves, in differing group sizes, and at any altitude up to 25,000 ft or more. Main targets are again airfields in the South East, balloon defences, radar and other installations.
    All airfields attacked suffer some damage, including loss of fighters on ground or scrambling. Worst hit are Debden, Croydon, Biggin Hill, Hornchurch, North Weald, Duxford and Eastchurch.

    Night: All night activity over the whole country, with Liverpool the main target.

    A link to the Shoreham Battle of Britain site with some photos of the event:-

    The Shoreham Aircraft Museum - Flying Officer Robin McGregor 'Bubble' Waterston

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