Biplane fighter aces


Pilot Officer Phillip Hannah Purdy DFC, RAF no. 41738

Purdy was born in 1918 and was from St Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada.

He was granted a short service commission in the RAF in March 1938.

On completion of training, he was posted to 263 Squadron on 2 October 1939.

He took part in both Norwegian expeditions.

On 10 May the award of a DFC was gazetted, the citation stating:

”This officer led a successful attack against enemy Heinkel 111 aircraft. He also showed bravery in remaining in his cockpit whilst subjected to a bombing attack by three enemy aircraft, and only abandoned his aircraft when it was set on fire by a bomb bursting nearby. He received serious burns but insisted on helping to start two other aircraft in the face of enemy machine gun fire.”

At 20:34 on 25 May Pilot Officer Purdy and Sergeant Kitchener took off and intercepted a big aircraft, which they believed was a Junkers Ju 90. The German aircraft was attacking a destroyer near Harstad. Purdy dived from the rear quartee for his first attack, then swung away to approach from dead astern, silencing the rear gunner and setting the aircraft alight. It crashed into a fjord some five miles from the destroyer that had been the target.
This victory was claimed as a shared between Purdy and Kitchener.

At 15:00 on 26 May two pairs of Gladiators were sent off to intercept German anti-shipping attacks in the Harstad area.
Pilot Officer Purdy and Pilot Officer Michael Amor Bentley first attacked one bomber at 2000 feet to the south-east of Harstad, which they identified as a Do 17. Both pilots made beam attacks; Bentley then chased it down very low into a valley 20 miles south of Narvik. It was later confirmed to have crashed into a hillside, but this does not seem to have been the case, for no loss had actually been suffered.
Purdy meanwhile had broken away to attack five more aircraft identified as Dorniers, which were bombing shipping at Harstad at 12,000 feet. He made an astern attack on the third bomber in the formation, firing from 250 yards and seeing the port engine emit white smoke. The bomber broke formation and turned south, losing height. At this, the rest of the formation split up and headed away southwards. It was reported that the ‘Dornier’ he had attacked was later found crashed to the south-west of Harstad. Again there is no confirmation of this from Luftwaffe records.

Purdy took part in the successful evacuation of fighters from Narvik on 8 June 1940 when he and nine other pilots from 263 Squadron landed their Gladiators aboard HMS Glorious. However this successful evacuation was avail when the carrier was sunk by the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau later in the day with the loss of almost all aboard, Purdy being one of them.

At the time of his death Purdy was credited with 1 biplane victory.

Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  25/05/40 1/2 Ju 90 (a) Shared destroyed Gladiator II   near Harstad 263 Squadron
  26/05/40 1/2 Do 17 (b) Shared destroyed Gladiator II   S E Harstad 263 Squadron
1 26/05/40 1 Do 17 (c) Destroyed Gladiator II   S W Harstad 263 Squadron

Biplane victories: 1 and 2 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 and 2 shared destroyed.
(a) Crashed into a fjord near Harstad after 2034. The identity of this aircraft is not verified with German sources.
(b) Crashed into a hillside 20 miles south of Narvik at 1500. Not confirmed with German sources.
(c) Not confirmed with German sources.

Fledgling Eagles - Christopher Shores with John Foreman, Christian-Jaques Ehrengardt, Heinrich Weiss and Bjørn Olsen, 1991 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-42-9
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The London Gazette
Those Other Eagles – Christopher Shores, 2004 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-904010-88-1

Last modified 29 February 2024