No 605 Squadron Hurricane I P2765 UP-N P/O. James Samuel Humphreys
Date: 9th September 1940 (Monday)
Unit: No. 605 Squadron
Type: Hurricane I
Base: RAF Croydon, Surrey
Location: Borden, West Sussex.
Pilot: P/O. James Samuel Humphreys NZ/41928 RNZAF Age 21. Injured (1)
REASON FOR LOSS:
At around 17:00 hrs Humphreys' squadron was ordered off and after 15 minutes 'B' Flight was detached and vectored on to a raid apparently heading for the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. Contact was made about 17:25 hrs with a force of 20 plus He111s, with Me 109's as close and high escort.
Awkwardly placed, at the rear of the enemy formation and slightly below, the Hurricanes climbed to get into an attacking position. As the high escort started to take notice Humphreys moved Green section outwards, drawing the Me109's with them. 605's Blue section moved in and broke up the bombers and Humphreys turned his section to pick up any of the scattered Heinkel's.
Above: on left Noel with his brother, James at what is believed to be Glasgow Railway Station (courtesy Penny Humphreys)
At this point they were bounced by some Me110's which Humphreys had not seen. His Hurricane was hit three or four times, one being a 20mm cannon shell beside the throttle control. He went down in an aileron turn for some 3,000 feet and took stock of the situation.
There was a sizeable hole in the cockpit wall, the throttle quadrant was gone the cockpit was full of smoke and petrol fumes. It seemed that his aircraft was gong to catch fire so he baled out at an altitude of 12,000 feet.
He did a free fall to down to cloud level, about 3,000 feet, before pulling his rip-cord. His left hand was badly wounded, and he ultimately lost his little finger. Humphreys' came out of cloud over the Canadian Camp at Bordon and drifted across it with the breeze. Soldiers began firing the Lewis gun up at him, putting six holes through the canopy, cutting on rigging line and sending one bullet through the left breast pocket of his tunic, leaving a weal on his left side.
605 Squadron Hurricane
Humphreys' landed just outside the camp in a copse besides the railway line, was picked up by the Canadians and having being 'relieved' of his buttons, flying boots and maps was taken to the Cambridge Military Hospital at Aldershot. When he abandoned his aircraft he released his escape panel, on which was stencilled his personal insignia, a Maori Tiki (1). This shows one of the hands cut, which he considers to be of superstitious significance. Humphreys' must have mentioned this panel to the Canadians for three days later three of them brought it to him in hospital. The very soldiers who had picked him up had found it on manoeuvres. A remarkable coincidence, considering it had fluttered down 12000 feet. The Hurricane eventually crashed at the Straits in Kingsley.
In 1979 an amateur aviation group recovered pieces from this aircraft. No information as to where these pieces are today. Also recovered we understand was the propeller and the Merlin engine.
(1) His brother, F/O. Noel Robert Shakespeare Humphreys MiD, also a pilot but in Bomber Command, was killed flying Stirling EH878 IC-I on an operation to Mannheim on 5/6 September 1943.
(2) Maori Tiki:- according to Wikipedia: The term is also used in Māori mythology where Tiki is the first man, created by either Tūmatauenga or Tāne. He found the first woman, Marikoriko, in a pond – she seduced him and he became the father of Hine-kau-ataata. In the Māori language, the word "tiki" was the name given to large wooden carvings in roughly human shape, although this is a somewhat archaic usage. The carvings often serve to mark the boundaries of sacred or significant sites. Often used as a 'lucky charm'.
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF PILOT
Born on November 18th 1918 in Greymouth, New Zealand. Joined the RAF in February 1938 at Napier, New Zealand and left for England on the RMS Rangitiki (shown left) on the 19th November 1938. Last served as Squadron leader in 20 Squadron RAF leaving on July 12th 1946. Married after war end and remained in England until 1951. He retired as Stores Manager from Kempthorne Prosser (New Zealand Drug Company - Kiwi Boot Polish) in 1979. Died in Whanganui, Manawatu, New Zealand in 1986 and was buried in Aramoho Cemetery, Whanganui
Acknowledgments with thanks to Penny Humphreys and family, to Norman L.R. Franks "Fighter Command Losses" Vol's. 1, Winston G. Ramsey - "Battle of Britain Then and Now", K. Wynn, "A Clasp for the Few."