RCAF Flight Lieutenant George Gordon Hyde
1914 - 1941
Scopwick War Graves : Nestled in a quiet corner of Scopwick, a picturesque village near Lincoln, is a small Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery containing graves of those who died during the Second World War. Each of the graves has a story to tell, although many of these may soon be lost in the mists of time. The following is a tribute to of one of the men who lies in this cemetery.
FO GG 'Kewp' Hyde
RCAF & The Battle of Britain
The first action seen by a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) squadron during WW2 was in the Battle of Britain, which took place over the summer and early autumn of 1940. Many Canadians served in the squadrons of Spitfires and Hurricanes which fought the Luftwaffe during the summer of 1940. No.1 Squadron RCAF (later re-numbered No. 401 Squadron ), a fighter unit equipped with eight-gun, Hawker Hurricanes were formed at Croydon in July 1940,moving to Northolt in August. They were soon in the thick of it and became the first Royal Canadian Air Force unit to engage enemy planes in battle when it met a formation of German bombers over southern England on 26th August 1940. It shot down three aircraft and damaged four others with the loss of one pilot and one plane.
Their next encounter with the enemy was not so fortunate as they were attacked out of the sun by a formation of Messerschmitts and lost three of their aircraft. It is believed that F/0 GG Hyde was shot down in this action and a Montreal newspaper clipping of the time provides sparse details of the incident.......'....he suffered leg injuries and burns to his face but was reported as not seriously hurt on 31st August 1940, after being shot down over Cranbrook by a BF109.'
Of note, this was Fighter Command's heaviest day of losses during the battle with 40 aircraft shot down. 401 Squadron remained flying in the front line until the German Luftwaffe called off the offensive in October.
GG Hyde was transferred to No.402 Squadron RCAF, another Canadian Hurricane squadron, sometime between October 1940 and March 1941 and was soon posted to RAF Digby. The Squadron pilots were billeted at nearby Ashby Hall. RAF Digby became host to many RCAF squadrons throughout the war.
Metheringham War Weapons Week
Many initiatives were put into place throughout Britain to help the war effort including the 'War Weapons Week' campaign, whose aim was to raise funds for arms. During the 1941 'War Weapons Week’ campaign, North Kesteven Rural District Council, the local administrative area, intended to raise £60,000 for three new bomber aircraft but in reality they achieved the sum of over £190,000, a national record per capita. Metheringham's contribution was £20,000 and during the week a programme was arranged including a football match, dances with a RAF band, an ENSA Concert Party, whist drive, baby show and bazaar, a fancy dress parade and a Royal Air Force flying display over the village on Saturday 17th May 1941.
George Hyde flew one of the two Hurricanes which took part in the flying display and an entry in RAF Digby's archives poignantly summarises events as follows;
'17/05/1941 - 402 Squadron Flight Lieutenant George Hyde gave an outstanding and long remembered display of aerobatics over Metheringham as part of the village's War Weapons Week celebration. Unfortunately, Hyde crashed and was killed. He is buried in Scopwick Military Cemetery.'
But this was not the end of the story. Local historian, Peter Ford, was recently contacted by relatives of George Hyde from Canada and he decided to see whether he could discover more details of the incident. By chance, he was put in touch with Mr George Emerson, a local resident living in Scopwick and now 84 years old. George originated from Sussex and after joining the Royal Air Force at the beginning of the war was posted to RAF Digby in March 1941, attached to their Crash Recovery Group until April 1943. After the war he married and settled in Scopwick.
George Emerson, 1941
George Emerson, 2004
On the afternoon of Saturday 17th May 1941 George and his rescue team were alerted to a Hawker Hurricane having crashed on its return from an air display at Metheringham. The aircraft was one of two involved in the demonstration and was heading back to RAF Digby over Scopwick and Kirkby Green to make an approach from the east, but unfortunately crashed in a field between the hamlets of Kirkby Green and Rowston. The rescue team, together with a RAF ambulance, set-off to the crash site via Ashby de la Launde, Digby village and Rowston to enter Kirkby Green from the south.
Fortunately, a dirt track led to the location but sadly the plane had embedded itself into a potato field owned by the Wright family, local farmers who resided at the nearby Manor at Kirkby Green. The area was known as the Pastures and lay between the road leading to Rowston and main railway line connecting the city of Lincoln and market town of Sleaford.
George was instrumental in pulling the pilot from the wreckage, but sadly Hyde had been killed outright from the impact. His body was wrapped in a blanket and placed in the ambulance and possibly taken to RAF Hospital Nocton Hall or Rauceby Military Hospital near Sleaford. He was later buried with full military honours in Scopwick.
George Emerson vividly remembers the incident and recalls watching the aircraft flying out of RAF Digby for the air display over Metheringham. He recently visited the crash site again and easily identified where the plane had come down over sixty years previously. Ironically, some dozen years ago, an avenue of trees was planted either side of the old dirt track leading to the crash site. Whether coincidentally or not, the sight of these now semi-mature trees is befitting, Canadian Maple.
Canadian Maples on track to crash site
George Gordon Hyde was one of a special breed, a man of his time. He was one of the Few, a Hurricane pilot who fought in the Battle of Britain in 1940. He made the ultimate sacrifice. An appropriate epitaph for George Gordon Hyde is the famous aviators poem, High Flight, written by the American Spitfire pilot, John Magee, who also died in a flying accident during the war and lies opposite Hyde’s grave in Scopwick Military Cemetery:
GG Hyde's Gravestone, Scopwick War Cemetry
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling
mirth of sun-split clouds, and done a hundred
things you have not dreamed of - wheeled
and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovr'ring there, I've chased the shouting wind along,
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up, the long, delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
by John Gillespie Magee Jr., September 3, 1941
Thanks to the Hyde family, Montreal for allowing us to tell
this story and to George Emerson, Pete Ford and Mike Credland for bringing it to
Images on this page used with the kind permission of the Hyde family, George Emerson and Pete Ford.