HUSKINSON, Patrick [of Farndon]

Photo:A BE2c as flown by 2/Lt Huskinson

A BE2c as flown by 2/Lt Huskinson

Fully-operational modern replica

Royal Flying Corps, No.2 Squadron

By George Harper

Our second Farndon hero was Patrick Huskinson. He was the son of Colonel Huskinson the Commanding Officer of the 1/8 Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters and the family lived at Farndon Lodge off Church Street.

Patrick was born on March 17th 1897 Not much is known about his  youth but a Coronation mug was distributed to all the children in the village by his parents in Patrick’s name. He was educated at Harrow School and in fact was a member of the school cadet corps when war was declared.

After leaving school he went to the military academy at Sandhurst and passed out as a Second Lieutenant in October 1915 and was posted to the Sherwood Foresters. Somewhere along the line he had acquire the ambition to fly. The Foresters as a regiment favoured the aeroplane as a weapon of war so after qualifying as a pilot and passing out of the gunnery school he became a Flying Officer in the RFC and was posted to No. 2 Squadron flying a BE 2c in 1916.

His early duties involved ‘spotting’ targets for the Royal Artillery and reporting on the accuracy of their gunfire as well as carrying out aerial photography. These could be dangerous missions not only because of the danger of attack by enemy aircraft but also because they often involved low flying within range of artillery and small-arms fire.

The life expectancy of pilots was short and the opportunities to display courage were many. Early on he was badly shot up and saved himself by gliding back to the safety of the British lines. Then, during the Battle of the Somme in 1916, he was required to bomb enemy transport and trenches and on one occasion bombed a German train and destroyed it, but the blast from the explosion damaged his aircraft. Short of fuel and shot at by both sides, he flew at ground level back to safety. For this exploit he was awarded the Military Cross.  The citation read “For c onspicuous gallantry and skill. When attacking the enemy’s communications he descended to 800 feet in order to release his bombs on a train and station. He was under continuous fire and his engine and machine were seriously damaged, but he succeeded in flying back at low altitude and safely landing within our lines. He was again heavily fired at as he crossed the lines.” At the end of the year he was promoted to the rank of Captain in charge of a flight of six planes. He took his father, the Colonel, for a joy ride over enemy lines for fun.

Though as an air ‘ace’ he was not in the class of the ’Red Baron’ or Captain Albert Ball, whilst serving with No. 19 Squadron he was awarded a bar to his MC after he succeeded in shooting down 11 enemy aircraft. He had another narrow squeak when his plane was shot up over Ypres, lost its propeller, and finished upside down in a shell crater. He nearly drowned before managing to scramble out with help from nearby troops and proceeded to repair the engine. For these exploits he was awarded a bar to his Military Cross (the equivalent of getting a second medal).

In the last year of the war he was posted as an instructor to the Central Flying School and then promoted to the rank of Major in command of a squadron. After the Armistice he elected to remain in the newly formed Royal Air Force and resigned his commission in the Sherwood Foresters.

By the time World War 2 broke out, with the rank of Air Commodore and based in Whitehall he was responsible for the design of some of the most powerful bombs used by the RAF against German targets. But that would make another story.

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