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Spitfire ace tribute

PUBLISHED: 15:58 13 August 2008 | UPDATED: 09:46 12 August 2010

A PILOT who died during a ferocious dog fight during the Second World War is to be honoured. Next Saturday, August 23, the life of top RAF flying ace

A PILOT who died during a ferocious dog fight during the Second World War is to be honoured.

Next Saturday, August 23, the life of top RAF flying ace Pat Hughes will be celebrated with a fly past by a Spitfire aircraft and a memorial stone is due to be unveiled where he crashed at Sundridge, near Sevenoaks.

Cadets from Dartford, Swanley and Biggin Hill Air Training Corps will pay their respects to the 23-year-old Flight Lieutenant who died on September 7 1940 just five weeks after marrying his sweetheart.

It is the latest bid by Shoreham Aircraft Museum to mark the death of pilots within a ten-mile radius of the museum during The Battle of Britain.

Pat Hughes was one of 12 pilots sent from RAF Middle Wallop in Hampshire to intercept over 500 German fighters who were escorting bombers doing raids over London.

Project leader Geoff Nutkins said: "Soon enough the Spitfires were facing large numbers of enemy bombers and fighters returning from London to make good their escape back to bases in northern France.

"Paterson Hughes was recognised as a very aggressive and successful RAF fighter pilot of that momentous summer.

"He was already credited with at least a dozen air victories being renowned for closing in bravely to very short range when attacking his chosen target.

"On this Saturday early evening his tactics were no different as he led his Flight to attack a formation of Dornier bombers near Sevenoaks."

Precisely what happened during the confusion of battle is not fully known, one eyewitness on the ground suggesting the pilot deliberately smashed into a Dornier bomber.

Other accounts said the bomber exploded, taking Hughes' Spitfire with it.

Mr Nutkins said: "Whatever the truth, the attempt to successfully bale-out from his stricken fighter proved tragic as the body of Pat Hughes was found in a garden at Sundridge with his Spitfire crashing at Bessels Green.

"The Dornier crashed in pieces across Sundridge with four of the five-man German crew being killed."

Hughes was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Other memorial stones laid to date are for Jimmy Paterson, Sparepenny Lane, Farningham; Nat Barry, Court Lodge Farm, Darenth; Trevor Oldfield, Hesketh Park, Dartford; John Ellis, Warren Road, Chelsfield.

Visitors welcome to attend the event on August 23 from noon. To support the project visit www.shoreham-aircraft-museum.co.uk or call the museum on 01959 524416.

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