Wing Commander Terence Michael Kane
Battle of Britain Spitfire Pilot & Stalag Luft III POW
9 September 1920 - 5 August 2016
Wing Commander Terry Kane, who has died aged 95, was one of the very few fighter pilots shot down during the Battle of Britain to be captured by the Germans and made a prisoner of war.
On September 22 1940 he had shared in the destruction of a Junkers 88 bomber. The following day, only nine days after joining No 234 Squadron, Kane took off on a routine patrol when Messerschmitt Bf 109s attacked his section. Kane shot one of them down but, during the combat, the engine of his Spitfire was damaged and he was forced to bale out at 6,000 feet.
He had difficulty escaping from the fighter’s cockpit but eventually managed to roll the aircraft over and fall clear. His parachute opened at 500 feet and seconds later he landed in the sea off the French coast. Floating in his life jacket, he was fortunate to be plucked from the sea within two hours by the German Navy.
Terence Michael Kane was born in London on September 9 1920 and educated at Varndean School in Brighton. He joined the RAF on a short service commission in September 1938 and trained as a pilot.
After being rescued, Kane was well treated before being taken to his first PoW camp. After initial interrogation he was sent to Oflag IXA/H, a converted medieval castle at Spangenberg, 15 miles south of Kassel. With his fellow RAF PoWs, Kane was moved between camps a number of times and on October 2 1941 he was in a large party that arrived at Oflag VIB near Warburg.
A week later another group of RAF prisoners arrived, among whom Kane recognised his elder brother, Squadron Leader Mike Kane MBE, whose Whitley bomber had been shot down two months earlier. The younger Kane was unaware that his brother had been posted as missing, or that he had already made a daring escape bid – only to be recaptured when he was discovered in the hold of a Swedish ship in the docks at Lübeck.
The two brothers were moved in May 1942 to the new Luftwaffe camp, Stalag Luft III at Sagan. They were sent to the East Compound, next to the one where the Great Escape took place in March 1944.
On the night of January 27 1945 the prisoners were given a few hours’ notice to gather their belongings and prepare to leave. The Soviet Army was approaching from the east and the Germans had decided to evacuate the camp and march the prisoners westwards.
During one of the coldest winters of the century, the men suffered great privation and numerous casualties on what became known as 'The Long March'.
Eventually, Kane and his colleagues reached Lübeck where they were liberated by a scout car of the British 11th Armoured Division. Kane was flown back to England on May 8 after four-and-a half years as a PoW.
Kane remained in the RAF, mainly on intelligence duties including two years in the Middle East.
He left the service in 1950 but could not settle to civilian life and re-joined in February 1954. He specialised as a fighter controller, serving in Germany and in the United Kingdom. After a period as the defence adviser in Libya he became the project officer in the MoD for the 'Linesman' system, a network of radars and a centralised control system for the air defence of the UK.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard.