Saturday, 15 May 2010

Historic Castle Douglas fighter pilot honoured

From the BBC News website:

A memorial is to be unveiled to a Scottish fighter pilot who shot down the first enemy bomber to be destroyed in British airspace in WWII.

Patrick Gifford, from Castle Douglas, was killed in action in Belgium on 16 May 1940.

A plaque will be unveiled in his memory in his home town on Sunday to mark the 70th anniversary of his death.

A new biography of Mr Gifford is also being launched this week in recognition of his unique role in the conflict.

Born in 1910, he worked as a lawyer with the family firm in Dumfries and Galloway but flew a fighter plane as an auxiliary with the Royal Air Force at evenings and weekends.

On 16 October 1939, he was among the pilots who tackled a dozen German Junkers 88 twin-engined dive-bombers targeting Royal Navy ships in the Firth of Forth.

He shot down the first enemy plane near Prestonpans in East Lothian.

Mr Gifford was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and was promoted to squadron leader for his efforts.

However, he too was shot down and killed while flying over Belgium just a few months later.

Now he is to be honoured in his home town.

Councillor Patsy Gilroy, who chairs the Stewartry Area Committee and whose father-in-law was in the RAF with Mr Gifford, said she was happy to see his efforts recognised.

"I'm very pleased that 603 Squadron and the council have worked together on this memorial to Patrick Gifford," she said.

"As a lawyer and councillor he was a well known figure in Castle Douglas.

"Unfortunately, in recent years his story was largely forgotten but this memorial and a book published this week should rekindle interest in one of our local heroes."

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