07.12.1941 No. 121 Squadron Spitfire Vb W3711 AV-H F/O. Richard F. Patterson
Date: 7th December 1941 (Sunday)
Unit: No. 121 Squadron (Eagle)
Type: Spitfire Vb
Base: RAF North Weald
Location: Bredene-aan-Zee, Belgium
Pilot: F/O. Richard Fuller Patterson J/2928 RCAF Age 26. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
No further details as yet - research still underway. Failed to return from Rhubarb. Understood to have crashed in the water at high tide on the 7th December 1941 just off the beach of Bredene-aan-Zee in Belgium.
F/O. Patterson taken on the 28th November 1941, just 9 days before he was killed (archives)
August 2015 - Van landeghem Guido sent the photo of the memorial to us that has been placed at the crash site (since forwarded to the family of F/O. Patterson)
In commemoration of the crash, the city council commemorated F/O Richard Fuller Patterson by naming the pedestrian bridge near the Zeelaan as the 'Pattersonbrug'. (Credit. Van landeghem Guido - November 2018)
Above right with his sister Martha Kidder - neé Patterson (courtesy Latané Miller)
A letter he wrote home shortly before his loss:
“If this is where I get mine, up there where it is cold and clear, on a battlefield where the dead don’t lie about to rot, where there is no mud and no stench, where there is moonlight by night and stars, and in the day the wizardry of intriguing cloud formations, and a blue sky above where a man is free and on his own and the devil and Jerry take the hindmost.
If I get mine up there, there must be no regrets. I would have it that way. It is unfortunate that those of us who love life most, the very ones who so keenly seek to live the fullest life possible, must take the long chances that in so many cases cut it short.
We are not blind to the odds against us; true, we laugh at them or think lightly of them, but that is because we would have it no other way. I pity those, who living, live in fear of death.” Notes:
Spitfire Vb W3711 built at Chattis Hill and first flew 16th August 1941. Powered with the Merlin 45 RR engine. On this day the Japanese attacked the US Naval base at Pearl Harbour which led the USA entering WW2. Because the attack happened without a declaration of war and without explicit warning, the attack on Pearl Harbour was judged by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East to be a war crime.
Above: Grave at Bredene Cemetery (archives)
F/O. Richard Fuller Patterson. Bredene Churchyard, Belgium, Row C. Grave. 525. Further information: Born on the 21st September 1915. Son of James Thomas Patterson and Mattie Gregory Patterson (nee Handy), of 4101 Grove Avenue, Richmond, Virginia, USA. Brother to Martha Kidder (née Patterson - died July 5th 2013) Richard is recorded as the first American to be killed during the conflict in Europe. The Patterson family created the Lucky Strike Tobacco empire. Richard was an outstanding student and athlete of St. Christopher School, Woodberry Forest, Princeton and Harvard. His brother, James Thomas Patterson, was also killed, in August 1945.
Grave inscription reads: ‘Glad Did I Live… And I Laid Me Down With A Will’. On his family tomb (shown left) the inscription reads: ‘I Pity Those, Who Living, Live In Fear Of Death’.
With thanks to Latané Miller - great niece of the pilot. Also to Van landeghem Guido for sending the memorial plaque photo in August 2015. Further sources as quoted below.