If you pass a rather nondescript block of flats in Richmond, you might be surprised to see a poppy wreath hanging on the wall.
This is Finucane Court, and it is named in memory of Wing Commander Brendan P Finucane DSO DFC, a local man who died in WW2.
Brendan “Paddy” Finucane was born in Dublin, but his family moved to Richmond in 1936 when he was 16. Giving up his expected career as a clerk, he joined the RAF in August 1938. He was not an outstanding trainee fighter pilot, but passed his tests to be allowed to fly the Spitfire in combat, and was sent to RAF Hornchurch in Essex during mid-July 1940.
Shooting down a number of enemy planes, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in May 1941, the citation reading: “This officer has shown great keenness in his efforts to engage the enemy and he has destroyed at least 5 of their aircraft.”
Finucane added 17 fighter claims to his score by his 21st birthday in October 1941, also being awarded a Distinguished Service Order.
He narrowly avoided being shot down himself when his plane was badly hit in February 1942, and spent time in hospital recovering, before returning to the skies. Finucane’s fame spread, and in June 1942, he became the youngest Wing Commander in the RAF, leading the Hornchurch Wing.
However, on 21st July 1942, anti-aircraft fire hit his plane over the coast of France, and although he was able to get his plane back to England, it eventually ditched into the sea, his last words over the radio “This is it chaps!”
With a ‘bag’ of 26 confirmed and 6 shared ‘destroyed’, plus 8 ‘probable’, 1 shared ‘probable’ and a further 8 ‘damaged’ Wing Commander Brendan ‘Paddy’ Finucane DSO, DFC and bar was one of the top scorers of WW2.
Due to his fame as a pilot, and one born in Ireland, a memorial service was held in Westminster Cathedral, attended by around 3,000 people.
He had a number of memorials, a hospital wing, a road, a rose, and here, in his adopted hometown, a block of flats.
The memorial states simply “FINUCANE COURT/ SO NAMED TO COMMEMORATE/ WING COMMANDER BRENDAN “PADDY” FINUCANE D.S.O. D.F.C. & TWO BARS/ FIGHTER PILOT. A RESIDENT OF THIS BOROUGH/ WHO WAS KILLED IN AERIAL BATTLE IN 1942 AT THE AGE OF 21″