He believed he could speak to the dead and had been a Mongol chief in a previous life. But, as a new book reveals, it was Hugh Dowding's bizarre thinking which led to the RAF to victory in the Battle of Britain
Sgt Raymond T "Ray" Holmes of No 504 Squadron RAF sits in the cockpit of Hurricane Mk I TM-B at RAF Hendon before ramming a Do 17 over London on 15 September 1940 to prevent it from dropping bombs on Buckingham Palace. His action sliced off the tailplane of the bomber, which plunged into the forecourt of Victoria Station. Forced to bail out over Chelsea, the 26-year-old pilot ended up with the parachute lines suspending him over an open dustbin in a back garden.
Aged 28, F/O Hugh J "Huseph" Riddle flew with No 601 Squadron RAF in 1940. Earlier the year, the older brother of F/O Christopher JH "Jack" Riddle, who served in the same unit, saw action with A flight in France. On 19 May, operating from RAF Tangmere, he claimed a He 111 destroyed near Arras when he was shot down by enemy fighters, his Hurricane Mk I force-landing near Amiens. Reported Missing, he used a recalcitrant horse to reach Paris and rejoined the squadron 2 days later.
In the closing entries for 1940 in his logbook, acting S/L Douglas RS "Dougie" Bader records the DFC approved by acting AM William S Douglas for himself and F/O Hugh ND Tamblyn on 12 December, noting that under his command No 242 Squadron RAF has destroyed 67 enemy aircraft for the loss of 5 pilots in combat and 1 in an accident. The 30-year-old CO campaigned for an aggressive policy of assembling large formations of defensive fighters north of London to pound on the enemy to the south.