Flight Lieutenant Ray Holmes, who died in 2005, delivered the coup de grace to a German Dornier 17 bomber near Buckingham Palace in one of the most celebrated episodes during the Battle of Britain.
Appropriately, the firing button was still set to "FIRE". The aircraft's engine was recovered, and it is now displayed at the Imperial War Museum. The son of a journalist, Raymond Towers Holmes was born on August 20 1914 at Wallasey, Cheshire. He attended Calday Grange Grammar School, West Kirby, where he excelled at cricket and rugby, then became a crime reporter. He joined the RAFVR as an airman pilot in 1937 and trained at Prestwick and Barton in Lancashire.
Holmes went to No 504 Squadron at Wick in June 1940. The squadron flew south to Hendon in early September, and it was soon involved in some of the heaviest fighting of the Battle of Britain.
After he was commissioned in June 1941, 'A' Flight of No 504 became No 81 Squadron at Leconfield, East Riding, and the pilots were kitted out for an unknown destination. They flew to Glasgow, and embarked in the aircraft carrier Argus, which carried crated Hurricanes. On September 1, the squadron flew off in groups and landed at Vaenga airfield near Murmansk, northern Russia. Operations were flown until November, when Holmes and his fellow pilots taught Russians to fly the fighters. In December the RAF contingent sailed for England, leaving the Hurricanes and their equipment for the Russian Air Force.
After returning home, Holmes spent the next two years training student pilots before he went back to operations, flying high-altitude Spitfires with No 541 photographic reconnaissance squadron at Benson. During this period he acted as a courier, carrying papers for Winston Churchill when he was preparing for the Potsdam Conference. Holmes left the RAF in November 1945, having been mentioned in dispatches and given the Air Efficiency Award.
After the war Holmes turned down a suggestion that he become an airline pilot, and returned to journalism in Liverpool, where he established his own agency which specialised in court reporting. He also took agricultural photographs in colour when the technology was in its infancy, retaining his own laboratories for processing and working closely with Kodak, which was impressed with his innovative ideas. But eventually he could not keep up both journalism and photography, and opted for the former.
Taking notes with a fountain pen in perfect shorthand, Holmes became a father figure at Liverpool crown court, teaching young reporters the proper way to bow before a judge. After retiring at 80, he maintained a keen interest in journalism while devoting time to golf, woodwork and gardening. He wrote an autobiography, Sky Spy (1989).
In 2004 the Wirral Borough Council bestowed the Freedom of the Borough on Holmes, the chief executive stating that he could "think of no one upon whom this honour could have been more fittingly bestowed". On the day Holmes died, flags flew at half-mast in his honour in the Wirral, and his widow received a message from Buckingham Palace expressing the Queen's sadness on hearing of his death. Raymond Holmes married Elizabeth Killip in April 1941. After her death he married, in 1966, Anne Holmes, who survives him with two daughters from his first marriage, and a son and daughter from his second.
Text from Tony Franks-Buckley: read more stories like this in his book on the History of Wallasey
Tony is a Wallasey Historian who has many many different stories about Wallasey
Ray Holmes' ramming of a Dornier bomber over London on the 15th September 1940 has over the years become one of the most celebrated events of the Battle of Britain. Largely this is because of the heroic act itself, but the fact that the German enemy bomber crashed in such a public place and there was no loss of (English) life helped. And then the fact that the incident was filmed also helped. In 2004 the remains of the Hurricane were excavated and Ray Holmes was once again reunited with the Hurricane's control column or "joy-stick" which he last held 64 years ago.
The above image and text from: http://www.astrocollection.com/main.php?g2_itemId=2747