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  • In the April issue of Best of British

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Hero in a Hurricane

A young boy’s wartime idol.

Wartime HeroOne day, when I was five, I asked a fighter pilot how the undercarriage on his Hurricane worked.
“Be in the garden tomorrow and I will show you,” he said.
The garden was of the Three Horseshoes pub in the village of Great Parndon, some eight miles from North Weald airfield, in Essex. The landlord of the pub was my grandfather, Teddy Randall. He had four pretty daughters, the youngest, my aunt Della, was engaged to the pilot, Jock Muirhead.
Of course, I was out in the garden that memorable day, when I heard the unmistakable sound of the Merlin engine approaching. As it came into view, flying probably at a thousand feet, the wheels dropped down and then retracted. He continued this demonstration for some while, flying round in a great circle.
To this day, it’s difficult to explain how proud I was for this man to bother to do this for a small boy, even if his aunt was attractive!
Jock was killed at the end of the next year. He managed to bail out on three separate occasions. On the third time his aircraft was on fire, he managed to coax it over a built-up area of Gillingham, but was by this time too low and his parachute failed to open.
This was my first experience of death and, needless to say, I worshipped the man and still do.

Mike Philbrick

This article appeared in the May 2009 issue of Best of British.

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