Don Finlay- from apprentice to Group Captain.
Tue Apr 12, 2011 22:59

This was his Spitfire, EB-Z of 51 Sqn with the Observer Corps Motif on the cockpit side.

New Gate Guardian for HQ Air Command
RAF Waddington. The gate guard for RAF High Wycombe. The following
provides some background history to the replica
Spitfire Painted in the codes once flown by Don Finlay which now guards the main entrance to No 1 Site alongside the existing Hurricane.
During the summer of 1940 the First World War
practice of accepting donations from members
Spitfire IIa P7666 ‘EB-Z’ Observer Corps
of the public, groups, businesses and
local authorities to ‘purchase’ aircraft
for the armed forces was revived. In
August 1940 the Commandant of the
Corps, Air Commodore A D Warrington-
Morris, announced that a fund had been
established to raise the £5,000 necessary to
donate a Spitfire to the RAF - a considerable
sum at that time. The aircraft selected
for gifting was a Spitfire IIA manufactured
by Vickers Armstrongs at Castle Bromwich
with the serial number P7666 which
entered operational use with No 41
Squadron on 21 November 1940, being
named “Observer Corps” in recognition
of the donor. P7666 took part in its first
operational sortie - a patrol by twelve
aircraft along the Maidstone line - on
the morning of the same day, being
flown by the squadron’s commanding officer,
Squadron Leader Donald Finlay. During this
patrol the squadron encountered Messerschmitt
Bf 109 fighters, one of which was shot down by
Squadron Leader Finlay between Tonbridge and
Old Romney, its pilot being captured.
Group Captain Donald Osborne Finlay DFC AFC AFRAes RAF
The pilot of ‘Observer Corps’
in 1940-41 - Squadron Leader
Donald Finlay - combined a
thirty-four year career in the RAF
that took him from apprentice
to Group Captain combined
with a remarkable record of
achievement in national and
international athletics.
In September 1940, Squadron
Leader Finlay took command of
No 41 Squadron which he led
for the remainder of the Battle of
Britain and throughout the spring
and early summer of 1941. He
claimed his first victory, a
Messerschmitt Bf 109 shot
down over the Channel, on
23 September, and by the
official end of the Battle of
Britain on 31 October 1940 he
was credited with helping to
destroy a second Bf 109 and
a Dornier Do 17 bomber, and
had damaged a further three
Bf 109s. He added a further
two Bf 109s to his tally on 23
and 27 November 1940 whilst
flying Observer Corps.
In addition to his Service
career, Donald Finlay was also
an outstanding British track
athlete and was part of the Great
Britain team at the 1930 Empire
Games. He went on to represent
his country at both the 1932
Olympic Games in Los Angeles
and the 1936 Olympic Games in
Berlin, winning a bronze medal
in the 110 metres hurdles at
the former and a silver medal
in the same event at the latter.
He returned to national and
international competition after
the war, serving as captain of the
Great Britain team at the 1948
London Olympics and taking the
Olympic Oath on behalf of all of
the athletes attending.
Donald Finlay went on to achieve
the rank of Group Captain and
was awarded the DFC for his role
as OC 41 Sqn, eventually retiring
in 1959. In 1966 he was
injured badly in a car crash, and
complications from this injury
would appear to have led to his
untimely death at the age of 60
on 19 April 1970. His funeral
service took place at Halton
parish church five days later.

For some reason which escapes me, James Harry "Ginger" Lacey took a dislike to him, as I recall in his book Ginger Lacey-Fighter Pilot by Richard Townsend-Bickers. This was probably later when they both served in Burma?

He was however well regarded by others who served with apparently.

He was One of The Few, sadly no longer with us.

Best wishes

Paul Davies

  • Group Captain Donald Finlay.Group Captain Donald Finlay., Tue Apr 12 12:41
    • Don Finlay- from apprentice to Group Captain. — Paul Davies, Tue Apr 12 22:59
      • Finlay as coachClive Shaw, Wed Aug 22 01:49
        I was coached in hurdles and high jump by Finlay 52-54. Found him to be endlessly helpful, even to bringing hot sweet tea between County races. Once, in uniform, called him Don to his face as I... more
        • Finlay OlympianClive Shaw, Thu Nov 1 21:13
          Thanks for your input, Paul. Did you know that Finlay's bronze medal in 1932 came after he was assessed as coming fourth but the result was over-turned in his favour after the finish was reviewed... more
        • Donald Finlay Battle of Britain hero Olympian.Paul Davies, Thu Nov 1 14:08
          Hi Clive, amazing to be taught by this former Olympian athlete and war hero. He is mentioned in so many books about the Spitfire or the Battle of Britain and I can always picture his smile when I... more
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