11.09.1942 No. 91 Squadron Spitfire Vb BL511 Fl/Lt. Arthur G. Donahue
Date: 11th September 1942 (Friday)
Unit: No. 91 Squadron
Type: Spitfire MkVb
Base: RAF Hawkinge
Location: Strait of Dover
Pilot: Flt/Lt Arthur 'Art' Gerald Donahue DFC. 81624 RAFVR Age 29. Missing - believed killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Having taken off from RAF Hawkinge at 05:50 hrs for the first recce sortie of the day, to Ostend, Art Donahue was patrolling the coastal area between Flushing and Gris Nez. At about 06:30 hrs he intercepted a Ju88 and engaged it.
The German aircraft which was based at Schiphol was heard to transmit a message reporting that an engine was on fire, that the rear gunner had been killed and that it was attempting to return to Brussels. However, the enemy aircraft had already returned fire during the combat and had clearly hit the cooling system piping or the radiator of Art's Spitfire which had caused his engine to quickly overheat. He actually managed to report back to base on the aircraft's radio that he was about to ditch as he was too low to bale out.
A weak three second R/T 'Mayday' message was received from ‘Art' and as he was apparently well below parachute safe hight, (probably under 600 feet ) he ditched the Spitfire in the Channel off Gravelines which is a few miles west of Dunkirk.
He was flying in very poor conditions with visibility of less than 500 yards and falling. Despite an extensive motor launch and aerial search by his fellow pilots who spent all day until dark going out over the channel looking for him.
Ten search and rescue sorties are recorded in the squadron Operations Books with two pilots going out twice to search in the ever deteriorating conditions. His body was never recovered.
He survived two earlier incidents:
Monday 05th August 1940 - Flying Spitfire I K9991 during a patrol engaged 109’s off the French coast his aircraft was seriously damaged and forced to crash land at RAF Hawkinge whilst with 64 Squadron.
Monday 12th August 1940 - Flying Spitfire I X4018 during a patrol shot down at 12:30 hrs - forced to bail out over the south coast of England. Suffered burns, and leg injuries, again with 64 Squadron.
DFC Citation LG - 27th March 1942:
‘This officer has carried out many low level reconnaissance sorties and has successfully attacked enemy shipping and ground objectives. On one occasion, whilst carrying out an attack against enemy troops attempting a landing, Flying Officer Donahue silenced the enemy's fire, thus enabling the rest of the formation to press home their attacks with impunity. He has destroyed several enemy aircraft.’
Flt/Lt Arthur 'Art' Gerald Donahue DFC. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 65. Further Information: Born on 29th January 1913 in the tiny community of Dover, Olmsted, which is situated a couple of miles to the west of St Charles, Minnesota, USA. The Son of Frank P. Donahue and Ada G. Donahue. He learned to fly privately with the famous Max Conrad at Conrad's Flying Services, who himself was a world beating pilot who held several world records prior to WW2, some of which are still unbroken. Max Conrad clearly trained Donahue well as he qualified for his private and commercial pilot's licenses before he was 19. For several years he instructed trainee pilots, gave pleasure flights and did some "Barnstorming" and display flying around the US air display circuit in pre war 'depression' America. By this time Donahue had logged over 1,800 hrs flying time and was a very experienced flyer. In June 1940 he heard that pilots were being enlisted in Canada for the RAF. He immediately went to Canada claiming to be a Canadian citizen and was accepted for service in The Royal Air Force.
Researcher - Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered August 2016. With thanks to the Winona County Historical Society. Other photographs the Michel Beckers collection.