Edgar James "Cobber" Kain : biography
Edgar James Kain DFC (27 June 1918 – 7 June 1940) was a New Zealand fighter pilot. Nicknamed "Cobber", Flying Officer Kain was the first RAF air ace of the Second World War, and also the first recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross in the Second World War. During the Battle of France in 1940, he scored 17 confirmed kills. He was a household name in Britain in early 1940.Shores 1975, p. 70.
Kain was born in Hastings, New Zealand the son of Reginald G. Kain and Nellie Maria Keen . He went to Croydon School, Wellington and Christ's College, Canterbury later studying under Professor Von Zedlitz in Wellington. While at school he played rugby, cricket and excelled at athletics. Kain then worked as a clerk in his father's warehousing business. An interest in flying came early, Kain joining the Wellington Aero Club and securing his “A” pilot's licence at Wigram in 1936. After earning a private pilot's licence, he applied for a short-term commission in the Royal Air Force.Bowyer 2001, p. 68.
Upon acceptance by the RAF, Kain arrived in the United Kingdom in November 1936 and, receiving his short-term commission in December, he was enrolled as a pupil pilot at Blackburn, Lancashire. After further training at RAF Sealand and RAF Ternhill, he was posted in November 1937 to No. 73 Fighter Squadron, then equipped with the Gloster Gladiator biplane fighter. In 1938, the squadron converted to the new monoplane Hawker Hurricane. Kain was made Flying Officer in 1939.
Second World War
Before the start of hostilities, No. 73 Squadron RAF on 24 August 1939 was mobilised as part of the Advanced Air Striking Force (AASF). Appointed a section commander Kain flew on 80 fighter and escort operations over Le Havre, Louvres, Rheims, Verdun and other parts of enemy-occupied territory as No. 73 was one of the first units to engage the Luftwaffe.
Four days after war was declared, 73’s 16 Hurricane fighters flew across the Channel to France. On 10 September 1939, Kain flew his first operational patrols without making contact with the enemy. His first victory occurred on 8 November 1939 during a defensive patrol. Kain had spotted a Dornier Do 17 from reconnaissance unit 1.(F)/123 above and ahead of him. As the Do 17 began to climb to 27,000 ft with Kain in pursuit, he made two attacks but saw no result. With his Hurricane showing signs of strain, he attacked again and the Dornier dived steeply. Kain followed but pulled out when he saw fabric peeling off his wings. The Dornier crashed into the small village of Lubey northwest of Metz, exploding on impact and killing the crew. A machine gun recovered from that aircraft features as part of the Outbreak 1939 exhibition at the Imperial War Museum.
On 23 November, near Conflans, Kain shot down another Do 17, from 3.(F)/22. Due to bad weather there was little flying in December, January and February but on 1 March 1940, Kain fought an action with two Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters. His Hurricane was already damaged when he shot the first Bf 109 down in flames although the second fighter Shores and Williams 1994 The second fighter Not at all conclusive---> attacked him, stopping the Hurricane’s engine with a cannon shell but then flew off, leaving Kain to glide 30 miles from 20,000 feet to reach French territory. When his engine caught fire, Kain prepared to bail out but had to re-enter the cockpit when he realized his parachute strap was not in position. Fortunately the flames went out and Kain glided on to a forced-landing at Metz aerodrome.
In March 1940, Kain was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for a particularly daring action. While flying on operations, he sighted seven enemy Bf 109 fighters above him at 5,000 ft. Immediately giving chase and while pursuing them back towards the German lines, Kain discovered another enemy fighter on his tail. Attacked from behind, and with his own Hurricane fighter badly damaged, he engaged the enemy and shot it down. With his cockpit full of smoke and oil, he managed to bring his Hurricane down behind the Allied lines. The citation for the award referred to "the magnificent fighting spirit Kain displayed in outmanoeuvring his enemy and destroying him."
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