F is for Fighter Pilot

April 7, 2014 at 8:36 am | Posted in Family, Family History, History, Making History, Mental Health, Social Responsibility, War and Conflict | 18 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

It was 1938, when he was only 17, that my father, Ernest told Agnes (later to become his wife), “War’s coming and I’ll have to go.” They lived in England, had just started courting, and the situation in Europe, with Nazi Germany was not looking good.

In late 1939, soon after war broke out, Ernest tried to enlist. However he worked in a reserved occupation, engineering and weapons manufacture, so he was exempt, and even discouraged from, doing military service.

Home Guard Field Manual

So Ernest joined the Home Guard. After working a 12-hour shift at the engineering works, he would train with the local unit in the evenings. He also went regularly to the recruitment office in an effort to join up. Eventually, he was told that the only way he could enlist from a reserved occupation was to be accepted as aircrew.


In 1940, the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain led to a shortage of pilots, and that gave Ernest his chance. He applied yet again. This time, he was accepted into the RAF. He was mobilised in September 1941 and undertook basic training in England. Ernest was then sent to Canada to train as a pilot in the newly set up Empire Training Scheme.

RAF WWII hat badge

He returned to England as a fighter pilot with non-commissioned officer rank and was posted to 289 Army Co-operation Squadron, based mainly in Scotland. Ernie spent the next 3½ years flying a wide variety of single and twin-engine planes. Because of his flying skill, quick reflexes and ability to spot enemy fighters, and in spite of not being an officer, every C.O. he served under made him his Number 2 wingman.

WWII pilots wings

Among other planes, he flew Hawker Hurricanes, Typhoons and Tempests and the Vultee Vengeance. His missions included bomber intercepts and marine patrols. He searched out and attacked German submarines in the Irish Sea, and strafed German convoys and escort vessels along the north-western coast of Europe. As a member of 289 Squadron, he also flew various target-towing aircraft for the anti-aircraft gunners to practice their shooting.

RAF Pilots with their Hurricanes

In 1944, in the weeks before D-Day, Ernest flew Lysanders into German-occupied France to drop Allied spies. He flew at night, hedge-hopping to avoid detection by the Germans. He made six such trips, landing in isolated fields in the French countryside.


In July 1945 after V.E. Day, Ernest was granted a six-month compassionate discharge to look after his wife, who had been paralysed at the birth of their first child. During this period, he was not paid by the RAF, and had to work as a labourer for the local Council. He returned to the RAF in early February 1946 and served out his time in the south of England, piloting Vultee Vengeance aircraft towing targets for anti-aircraft gunners.

Defence of Britain medal

Defence of Britain medal

Throughout his service, Ernest rose through the ranks. Although often recommended for officer training, he always declined, as he hated the class distinction that went with it. At his discharge in June 1946, Ernest had attained the rank of Warrant Officer First Class, the highest non-commissioned rank in the RAF.

Agnes,Ern&Peter Thompson Jan.1946

                            Mum & Dad with their first born, 1945.


Do you have family who fought in WWII? Have you researched their story?


© Linda Visman 06.04.14 (549 words)





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  1. Well done Linda, lots of details make it more interesting, you are right to be proud of your Dad,

  2. Really enjoying the stories of your Dad and I like the pictures that break the text and add texture. Lovely 🙂

    • Glad you are enjoying them,Linda. I find pictures, as long as they are relevant make a post more interesting.

  3. Your Dad led a really interesting life, Linda. He really is a father to be admired and respected. Your love for him shine through in your words.

    My grandfather was in the Second World War. I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know much about what he did. Must ask my Mum.

    • Hi Sarah. Thanks again for your comment. 🙂
      Yes, I think it would be great for you to see what you can find out about your grandfather. I think that knowing where our parents and grandparents came fro, and how they lived and what they did, gives us more insight into our family beliefs and traditions. And in finding out those things, we can sometimes explain ourselves and our place within the family.

  4. Hi Linda. What was your father’s full name? I would like to add his name to my database of pilots who flew Spitfires and/or Hurricanes.

    • Hi John, good to see you here.
      Dad’s full name was Ernest Thompson and he was with 289 Squadron based in Scotland for much of the war. He never flew Spitfires, but the Hurricane was, he said, the plane that won the Battle of Britain, and was the best of the fighters.

    • Also, John, could you give me your web address? Many thanks 🙂

      • Thank you very much. It turned out that I actuallly had his name in my database, but only mentioning that he was with 289 Squadron. Info taken from a website that is no longer active.
        I do not have a website – yet.
        Do you have his logbook? I would love to see the pages where he flew Hurricanes. And the Record of Service page in the back if he filled it out.

      • Oh, how I wish I had his logbook!! It was lost in a flood about 1980, and is a tragedy. I have never even seen it, which I have always really regretted. I actually didn’t even know he had it until after it was destroyed. Dad was extremely upset, as he was away when it happened.
        It also makes my task of writing his story during the war almost impossible, as he didn’t talk much about it either. When I did ask, it caused him to have nightmares, so I left it alone. There are probably many such stories. 😦

      • Sad indeed. Many logbooks has vanished, unfortunately.
        I have the diary for 289 Squadron, so if you want I can see what it may have about your father. Do you know his servicenumber?

      • Oh gosh, John! I have made enquiries about the squadron diary, but have been able to find out nothing about it – and hardly anything about the squadron at all. I would love you to look for any references.
        Dad’s service number was 1040678.
        Can you tell me where I can possibly get a copy of the diary?

      • If you give me an email-address I can send you a copy of the diary.
        Thank you for the service number.

      • John, was the website called ‘wangigirl’? If so, that was mine, and I had some of my family history up there. There would have been a reference to dad’s serial number I think. I closed it down a couple of years ago, intending to get another one set up, but only managed to get this blog.

      • My address is lm.visman(at)bigpond(dot)com
        This is very exciting! I have Dad’s official record from the RAF, but there is hardly anything in it.

  5. Fascinating story. Love the old photographs.

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