Cork fisherman to search for WWII Spitfire plane wreck

Plane was flown by one of most famous Battle of Britain pilots Paddy Finucane

Paddy Finucane would have flown a Spitfire similar to this one seen at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

Paddy Finucane would have flown a Spitfire similar to this one seen at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

 

A Cork fishing captain has said he hopes next summer to locate the wreck of a Spitfire plane flown by one of the most famous Battle of Britain pilots who was also an Irishman.

Wing Commander Brendan ‘Paddy’ Finucane died on July 15th, 1942, when his plane was hit by machine fire from the ground off the French coast. It plunged into the sea off Le Touquet.

At just 21 years of age, Finucane was the youngest wing commander in the RAF at the time and also its top operational pilot. He was feted in British society, received honours from King George VI and appeared regularly in the press.

Finucane’s record of 32 downed enemy planes is second in the list of RAF fighter aces after Johnnie Johnson.

In 1948 Churchill mentioned Finucane in a speech in the House of Commons in which he berated Irish neutrality. “If ever I feel a bitter feeling rising in me about the Irish, the hand of heroes like Finucane seem to stretch out to soothe them away.”

Finucane’s war service was all the more remarkable as his father Andrew Finucane fought against the British in the Easter Rising.

Andy Finucane was a 2nd lieutenant of D Company, 1st battalion of the Irish Volunteers, commanded by Ned Daly. They occupied the Four Courts and the area to the west of the GPO.

Kinsale-based fishing skipper Carroll O’Donoghue said he has been interested in Finucane after acquiring a pilot’s licence himself.

He acknowledged that trying to find Finucane’s distinctive Spitfire with its shamrock livery will be like looking for a “rusty needle in a haystack”.

However, he said he had the sonar equipment that will help locate a large metal object such as a downed plane. “I’m in the lucky position of being able to do something about it.”

His ambition is to search for Finucane’s plane in June next year.

“I think the guy is worth it. He was a spectacular Irish success. He was revered at the time, but never at home,” he said.

“To this day, he is the youngest wing commander in the RAF. That says a lot about the guy.”

Mr O’Donoghue said the site where Finucane’s plane went down is a war grave, but he hoped to photograph and film it for posterity and to raise awareness of the man.

In 2012 a replica Spitfire was unveiled in O’Connell School, Dublin, which Finucane attended before his family emigrated to Britain.

His biography Paddy Finucane - Fighter Ace, first written by Doug Stokes in 1992, was republished earlier this year with a new foreword by his nephew Brendan Finucane QC along with new photographs from the family.

Finucane was one of “the few” who saved Britain in the summer of 1940. The 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain will be marked this week. Events will culminate in a service at St Paul’s Cathedral on Battle of Britain Day on Tuesday, September 15th.

The Limerick branch of the Royal British Legion will commemorate the 75th anniversary with a ceremony at Norman Ievers’ gravesite in Sixmilebridge, Co Limerick.

Squadron Leader Ievers was an Irishman who grew up at Avonmore, Co. Wicklow in the home now owned by former U2 manager Paul McGuinness. He joined the RAF in 1936 and fought in the Battle of Britain. He commanded a squadron of Czechoslovakian pilots who flew Hurricanes.

After the war he retired to Mount Ievers Court in Sixmilebridge, the family home of the Ievers family since the 1730’s.

The memorial service takes place at 4pm on Tuesday.