Ray Holmes : biography
Raymond Towers "Ray" Holmes (20 August 1914 – 27 June 2005) was a British fighter pilot who was feted by the press as a war hero who saved Buckingham Palace from being severely damaged by German bombing during the Battle of Britain.
Born in Liverpool, Holmes worked inially as a journalist before joining the RAFVR in 1937. In June 1940 he joined No. 504 Squadron. On 15 September 1940, Sergeant Holmes was flying a Hawker Hurricane fighter when he spotted a damaged Dornier Do17 bomber of KG 76 apparently making a bombing attempt on central London. Avoiding the bomber's return fire, Holmes made a head-on attack on the Dornier, however upon firing discovered his machine guns failed. Holmes decided to ram the bomber hoping his plane could withstand the impact and cut through it. He cut the tail off the bomber with his wing, causing the bomber to crash near Victoria tube station. His Hurricane was badly damaged, crashing near the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Holmes bailed out injured.'Those Other Eagles', Shores, (2004)
When recovered, he became part of No 81 Squadron, and was sent to the Northern Front near Murmansk in Soviet Russia to help train the Russian air force in flying the Hawker Hurricane. Here he claimed a further kill; a Bf 109 F. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 10 June 1941, promoted to Flying Officer on 10 June 1942, and Flight Lieutenant on 10 June 1943.
Returning from Russia, Holmes served as an instructor with 2 FIS, Montrose, from 1942 until 1944. He then flew PR Spitfires with 541 Squadron from February 1945.
After the war, he was a King's Messenger, personally delivering mail to Winston Churchill, and later a journalist.
65 years later, the wreckage of Holmes' Hurricane was discovered and successfully excavated from the streets of London. The discovery was featured on the National Geographic Channel documentary, "The Search for the Lost Fighter Plane".
Ray Holmes died on 27 June 2005, aged 90, following a two-year battle with cancer.
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