Of the 2917 pilots who were awarded the Battle of Britain clasp for having flown at least one authorised sortie with an eligible unit of RAF Fighter Command during the relevant period 10 July to 31 October 1940, at least 25 were from or had significant associations with Northern Ireland. Of these at least 7 were Instonians, past students of the Belfast city centre school.
Badger, John Vincent Clarence
Badger was actually born in London on 31 May 1911 but it would appear that, at the time in question his mother just happened to be visiting her husband who was in the Army there. When her husband left the Army he returned to the family home near Lisburn and the young John was educated at Fountainville Public Elementary School and Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI), Belfast. John joined the RAF in 1928. He initially flew with the Fleet Air Arm but in June 1940, as a Squadron Leader, he transferred to No 43 Squadron at RAF Tangmere and took over command on 9 July. Within a short space of time apparently, he had shot down eight, shared in the destruction of an additional two, damaged a further two and been credited with one ‘probable’ enemy aircraft shot down. On 30 August 1940, his Hurricane was shot down by Messerschmitt 109s; he baled out but was grievously injured when he landed in trees. He was taken to hospital but eventually died from his injuries on 30 June 1941 and was buried in the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels, Halton in Buckinghamshire. His decorations consisted of a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and a Mention in Despatches (MID).
Corry, Noel Henry
Born on 7 December 1918 and educated at RBAI, Noel joined the RAFVR in 1938 in Belfast and commenced flying training in February 1939 with No 24 E&RFTS, Belfast. He was called up to full-time service on the outbreak of war and, with his training completed in May 1940 he converted to Blenheim fighters with an Operational Training Unit. On 8 June he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer and 18 days later was posted to No 25 Squadron at RAF Martlesham Heath to begin operations. His tour of 30 operations completed, he was posted to the Special Duties Flight at No 72 Group, RAF Northolt on 29 January 1941 and this was followed by a succession of postings of an instructional nature. He then requested a return to operational flying, was trained to fly bombers and in mid-1944 joined No 12 Squadron at RAF Wickenby as a Squadron Leader, flying Lancasters. On 8 December 1944 he was awarded the DFC and went on to complete 24 operations with the Squadron. He also qualified for an AE.
Haire, John Keatinge
John was born in Belfast on 25 September 1920, one of three children to Sidney and Nora Haire. During the summer of 1939 he enlisted in the RAFVR and in December was sent initially to No 1 Elementary Flying Training School at Hatfield. He completed his operational training in early September 1940 and, in the rank of Sergeant, was posted to No 145 Squadron at Dyce, the squadron being transferred to Tangmere in early October. On 27 October, his Hurricane was damaged in combat with 109s over the Isle of Wight but he managed to ditch it off Bembridge and wade ashore, unhurt. Tragedy came during combat 10 days later when his Hurricane was shot down, on fire. He was seen to turn it away from the village of Arreton before baling out at too low an altitude for his parachute to fully open and he died where he had fallen, close to the village, beside his burning aircraft. Subsequently, his body was brought to Dundonald Cemetery for burial.
Heron, Hugh Michael Turretin
Born in Belfast on 22 November 1915, Heron completed his education at RBAI. He joined the RAF in December 1938 on a short service commission and was posted to No 266 Squadron in the autumn of 1939, flying Fairey Battles. In January 1940, Spitfires were received and they were first in action on 2 June over Dunkirk. On 27 July, Pilot Officer Heron went on a Fighter Navigation course and in September was transferred to No 66 Squadron at RAF Kenley. On 18 September, flying a Spitfire, he was credited as having shared the shooting down of a Junkers 88 and on the 30th, he claimed the destruction of a Messerschmitt 109. In December 1940, he left No 66 Squadron and spent the remainder of his RAF service as an instructor. Awarded the AFC in September 1945, he left the service in 1946 as a Squadron Leader.
Sydney Ireland was born in Belfast on 29 July 1918 and was educated at RBAI. In November 1938, he joined the RAFVR in Belfast on the same day as Noel Corry and learned to fly as a member of No 24 E&RFTS. Called up in September 1939, he was sent to England in November to continue his training and was eventually posted to No 610 Squadron as a Sergeant (Pilot). On 12 July 1940, when taking part in dog-fighting practice and flying from RAF Biggin Hill, his Spitfire dived into the ground at Titsey Park and he was killed. It is thought he might have lost control when diving through cloud. His body was brought home for interment and is buried in Knockbreda Church of Ireland Churchyard, Belfast.
John McAdam was born in Kent to Northern Irish parents, his father being in the Army there but he grew up in Whitehead where he attended the Public Elementary School and subsequently went to RBAI. In April 1939 he joined the RAFVR and learned to fly at No 24 E&RFTS. On being called up in September 1939, he continued his flying training in England and on 22 June 1940 he joined No 41 Squadron at RAF Catterick as a Sergeant (Pilot), having been introduced to the Spitfire only a couple of days earlier. Flying from Hornchurch on 7 September, in engagements with Luftwaffe bombers and their escorting fighters during the course of an air raid on London, John claimed to have shot down three enemy aircraft. However, damage to his Spitfire led to a crash-landing from which he emerged with a few scrapes and bruises. On 23 September, he was shot down during a patrol over Dover, baled out and was rescued from the sea. On 12 October, when taking off on patrol, the engine of his Spitfire went on fire but once again he survived a crash-landing without serious injury. On 25 October, he again claimed to have shot down a Messerschmitt 109 and on the basis of letters to his parents it would appear that he claimed a fifth on an unspecified date. Tragically, he died on 20 February 1941 while on patrol with other Spitfires over the Dungeness area, the precise circumstances of which are unclear. After the Spitfires were attacked by Messerschmitt 109s, John’s Flight Commander subsequently reported seeing him hanging underneath his parachute, apparently unconscious. When his body was recovered from the sea it was discovered he had been hit by cannon shells and fatally wounded. His body was brought home for burial in Ballyharry Cemetery, Islandmagee.
Wright, Robert Ronald
Wright was born in Belfast on 10 April 1917 and educated at RBAI, leaving in 1934. In January 1939 he joined the RAFVR in Belfast and began flying training with No 24 E&RFTS. After being called up in September 1939 he continued his training in England, completing his course on 8 June 1940 when he was sent to an Operational Training Unit, converted onto Blenheim fighters and joined No 248 Squadron at RAF Dyce a fortnight later. He remained with this squadron throughout the Battle of Britain, mostly carrying out long-range sorties to Norway seeking out the expected German invasion fleet. He was commissioned in January 1941. In October, he went with No 248 Squadron to Malta and then on to Egypt but not long thereafter he was posted back to the UK by sea, via South Africa and the USA! In February 1942 he re-joined No 248 Squadron which had returned to the UK but in May he began a period of instructing until July 1943 when he returned to operational flying, this time with No 235 Squadron at RAF Leuchars initially, carrying out long-range patrols in Beaufighters initially and Mosquitos subsequently, to protect anti-submarine aircraft of Coastal Command. During his time with No 235 Squadron, he shot down a Junkers 290 and a Junkers 88, on 16 February 1944 and 9 June 1944, respectively and was awarded a DFC. He was also stationed at RAF St Angelo with the squadron from 21 February until 27 March 1944. For 10 months in 1945 he was in West Africa, first as a Controller in Air HQ, then in command of a Staging Post and was released from the RAF on 5 December, as a Squadron Leader.