Here at Oxford, we honour another great World War II RAF pilot who lost his life over the English Channel, leading his squadron during the Battle of Britain in August 1940.
Sqn Ldr Philip Hunter joined the RAF on 11th September 1931 as a probationary pilot officer. Working his way up through the officer ranks, with various deployments and aircraft, he was eventually promoted to squadron leader in December 1938. With the urgent need for wartime leaders, Phil Hunter took command of No. 254 Squadron until early in 1940 when he was commissioned to take command of 264 Squadron, flying Boulton Paul Defiants. His regular air gunner was Aircraftman Frederick Harry King and they formed a formidable team, particularly during the evacuation of Dunkirk when they were operating along the Dutch coast and along the French beaches, shooting down enemy aircraft. Their victories during the last two weeks of May 1940 alone comprised 9 kills, 1 shared and another possibly destroyed. However, 264 Squadron had suffered heavy losses during the Dunkirk evacuation. In August 1940, there was an urgent demand for aircraft to defend Britain’s airspace and 264 Squadron was deployed to RAF Hornchurch is Essex. Between 24th and 28th August, the Squadron lost 9 aircraft and crews. Sadly the Defiant of Phil Hunter and gunner Sgt F. King, N1535 PS-A was lost over the English Channel, last seen chasing an enemy bomber away from the English coast. They were reported killed in action. Sqn Ldr Philip Hunter was 27 years old.
The Boulton Paul Defiant Mk I was a two-seater turret fighter that served with the RAF during World War II. Designed by John Dudley North and built by Boulton Paul Aircraft, it was introduced into the RAF in 1939. It was powered by a single 1.030 HP (768 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin III piston engine and had a maximum speed of 304 mph, a range of 465 miles and a ceiling of 31,000 ft, with the capability of reaching 15,000 ft in 8.5 seconds. Housing a crew of 2 – a pilot and a gunner, the Defiant had no fixed forward-firing guns but was armed with four 0.303 inch Browning machine guns. It was a formidable aircraft and proved very effective as a fighter plane against the German aircraft. However, after Dunkirk, the Luftwaffe became wise to the Defiant’s tactics as a result of which, the Defiant began to suffer considerable losses. It was therefore subsequently and successfully deployed as a night fighter.
Our 1:72 scale replicas of this amazing aircraft and crew is as flown by Sqn Ldr Phil Hunter and his gunner Sgt F King during their days at RAF Hornchurch. The serial number N1535 and fuselage code PS-A are faithfully reproduced on the sides of the aircraft which is decorated in the dark brown earth and dark green camouflage scheme with the RAF roundel on both the upper wings and the fuselage. The turret frame, gun barrels, instrument panel and tyres are all finished in black, while the cockpit is moulded in green. The underside of the aircraft is painted in a matt sky blue, against which the rusty brown exhaust pipes and wing lights are clearly visible. The single propeller is finished in black with yellow tips to the three blades and a matt white spinner.
The Boulton Paul Defiant went on to serve in several roles before it eventually retired, during which time just over 1000 were manufactured, to be used not only by the RAF but also the New Zealand and Canadian Air Forces.