Spitfire Paddy (PBS)
George Clarke’s Remarkable Renovations (C4)
With his chiseled jaw and tube manfully tied between his teeth, I always thought Dan Dare, the pilot of the future, was drawn as Britain’s answer to Superman.
Spitfire Paddy (PBS) made me think again. The wartime RAF essay Brendan ‘Paddy’ Finucane, the most decorated pilot during the first years of World War II, was the living image of the cartoon hero Dan, and possibly the inspiration behind the character.
RAF ace Brendan ‘Paddy’ Finucane was the living image of the cartoon hero
Newspaper cartoonists loved Paddy. Never seen without his faithful pipe, unless he actually flew an sortie against the Huns, Dublin-born Paddy was only 19 years old in the Battle of Britain.
He was gallant, quiet, insanely brave and engaged to an English girl named Jean. But he could also be a scoundrel, with an eternal twinkle in his eye.
When he retrieved his Distinguished Service Order from George VI, he went with a cane. . . not from a war damage, but from vaulting a wall on a crazy night out in the West End.
Dublin-born Paddy was just 19 years old in the Battle of Britain. Pictured: Vera Lynn with Hughie Green and some of the Battle of Britain pilots (left to right) – Lieutenant James (Ginger) Lacey; Group Captain Wilfred Duncan Smith; Wing Chief Paddy Barthropp; Vera Lynn; Hughie Green; Squadron Leader Drobinsky; Group captain Hugh (Cocky) Dundas, attends Battle of Britain’s 25th anniversary ball at Dorchester Hotel
Paddy was the most decorated pilot during the first years of World War II. Photo: Brendan Finucane holds up his uncles RAF Tunic
No wonder this young man was a national hero. It was impossible to watch this fast-paced, thoroughly researched documentary – made five years ago, but to get its first broadcast on a British channel – without feeling a rush of admiration.
His story seems almost too touching and noble to be true. After shooting down five enemy planes in two days, he was persuaded to make a radio broadcast and spoke with feelings about the excitement of air combat – and the long-standing guilt he felt about taking his life.
He refused to let the leg injury stop him from flying, and paid for it. A German Focke-Wulf 190 ‘butcher’ brought him down. When he was discharged from the hospital, Paddy climbed back into his Spitfire – and crashed two more Luftwaffe planes that day.
Paddy was the RAF’s youngest wing commander ever, but he died at just 21 years old
He was the RAF’s youngest wing commander ever. Nevertheless, he insisted that he had no ambitions to continue flying after the war. He hoped to emigrate to Australia – and become an accountant. He never got the chance. In 1942, Paddy was hit by an eruption from a German coastal machine gun, and ended up in the canal. His spit fire was never found. He was 21 years old.
The documentary included sentimental elements, such as the story of how he saved a few shillings from each paycheck to pay for his little sister’s dance lessons. He had a lucky song, Tangerine by the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, which he played before each mission. The day he died, he did not have time to hear it.
These details, in a less balanced account of such a remarkable life, may seem saccharine. In Paddy Finucane’s story, they simply illustrated the decency and innocent charm of the man.
Architect George Clarke strikes me as the kind of guy who would give the back teeth to fly a Spitfire.
He had to make do, when Remarkable Renovations (C4) returned, with a turn at the controls of a mechanical excavator, and picked up sandstone slabs in an open pit.
Architect George Clarke leads Remarkable Renovations where a couple turns a disused Suffolk pub and slaughterhouse into a family home. Photo: George Clarke with Imogen & Paul
This exploitation was not related to the rest of the show, which saw a couple transform an abandoned Suffolk pub and the slaughterhouse next door into a spacious family home. George did not have much to do. The husband and wife made a nice double-comedy on their own.
Paul made a point of exposing his delays and disasters to Imogen on camera “so she can not beat me”. And when they moved in, Imogen shrugged from the fact that the kitchen was still an empty shell strewn with rubble. “It’s OK,” she smiled, “because everyone who knows me knows it will not affect my ability to cook!”