IT was September 27, 1940 and the Battle of Britain, which had been raging since July 10, had just over a month to run. A young Flintshire pilot in his Spitfire (N3068) was locked in combat with a Messerschmitt 109 over Sevenoaks in Kent.
Pilot Officer Paul Davies-Cooke, from Mold, was shot down. He baled out and his aircraft crashed into 70 and 72 Queensway in West Wickham, while the young fighter pilot “fell dead” near Hayes station at 9.40am.
That day the gallant “few” destroyed 131 enemy aircraft, plus 33 probable and 52 damaged. Our losses included 27 aircraft and had 18 pilots – like Paul Davies-
Cooke – killed or missing.
Pilot Officer Davies-Cooke was one of the 544 who lost their lives over South East England as Britain stood alone and the Luftwaffe bombing raids reached their height.
Now organisers of the Rhyl Air Show have invited his great nephew, also called Paul Davies-Cooke, to this year’s event on August 7 and 8.
The Air Show will be commemorating the 70th anniversary of one of the most momentous battles in British history.
The location couldn’t be more appropriate because the skies above Rhyl and the Vale of Clwyd were used for training by the RAF in the run-up to their do-or-die
Paul, who lives at Mold and lectures at Northop College, said: “I remember my grandfather (the dead pilot’s brother Philip Ralph Davies-Cooke) and father (Captain Peter Davies-Cooke) were very upset because he was the youngest son and they never really spoke about the incident.”
There was speculation that the 23-year-old – the average age of an RAF pilot in 1940 was about 20 – might have been shot after he baled out but that was not confirmed.
“I knew about it from my time at school and when I visited a museum it was on a board for September 27, 1940,” said Paul. “In later years I found reference to him in books about the Battle of Britain and I have a coat of arms from his squadron.”
Pilot Officer Davies-Cooke, whose ancestral home was the Gwysaney Estate just outside Mold and who came from a family steeped in military service, is buried at the family plot in Rhydymwyn cemetery.
He trained at Hooton and was attached to 610 squadron at Hawarden before he transferred to 72 squadron at Biggin Hill in the south of England.
A photograph of the dashing young pilot alongside his biplane training aircraft at Hooton Park is featured in Wings Across the Border, one of several volumes written by Mike Grant of Caergwrle, who has exchanged information with Paul about his great uncle and Derrick Pratt of Wrexham, who between them are producing a history of aviation in North Wales and the Border counties.
“I know the plane trashed the houses it fell on but fortunately the occupant at one had five minutes earlier left the house to go to work and another occupant was in a neighbour’s shelter,” said Paul, who has served four years in the Territorial Army and is now an instructor in the cadet force.
The Air Show is staged by Denbighshire Council, supported by Rhyl Town Council, and was the brainchild of council events officer Sian Davies who said: “It’s fantastic that we have a real North Wales connection with the Battle of Britain which raged 70 years ago.
“We are delighted to be able to invite Mr Davies-Cooke as guest of honour and hope he will enjoy the show which will feature a Spitfire which would have been very familiar to his great-uncle.
“We have the RAF very much involved and we have gone for a top quality event that we feel will attract people from not just Denbighshire but also from further afield as well.”
The Battle of Britain Monument on the Victoria Embankment, London, records the names of the 2,936 flyers from the 15 nations who flew for Britain in the Battle. They were also outnumbered five to one by both machine and men.
As Prime Minister Winston Churchill said: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”