2 March 1940, Franco-German border. They call it the Phoney War but there was nothing phoney about the aerial combat. In this encounter, Young New Zealand RAF pilot Edgar ‘Cobber’ Kain – who would shortly become the RAF’s first fighter ‘ace’ – downs the Messerschmitt Bf 109 that has shot away his Hurricane’s wingtip – before being hit again by a second Bf 109 probably piloted by Luftwaffe ‘experten’ Werner Molders, which had already critically damaged Kain’s wingman and which then left the scene.
Kain, engine dead, then turned back towards French lines – but his aircraft also burst into flames. He went to bale out but found his parachute harness detached – so got back into the burning Hurricane and managed to glide to the French airfield at Metz where he collapsed from the fumes. For this action he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).
The official citation read:
“In March, 1940, while on patrol with another aircraft, Flying Officer Kain sighted seven enemy bombers about 5000 feet above him, and while giving chase well into Germany, he was attacked from behind by an enemy fighter. Showing the finest fighting spirit, this officer out-manoeuvred the enemy and although his own aircraft was badly damaged he succeeded in bringing the hostile aircraft down. Thick smoke and oil fumes had filled his cockpit and although unable to see his compass, he skilfully piloted his aircraft inside Allied lines in spite of being choked and blinded by the smoke.”