141 Squadron based at West Malling in Kent, received orders to send 12 of its Boulton Paul Defiant turret-fighters to Hawkinge early on 19th July 1940. At around 12:30 hours a scramble was conducted for a patrol 20 miles south of Folkestone at just 5,000 feet! However, only nine crews got into the air owing to three of the RAF fighters becoming unserviceable on start-up. The squadron had not yet been in combat with their aircraft.
Less than 30 minutes later Hawkinge witnessed what was left of the squadron return, when just two out of the nine Defiants landed intact after escaping ruthless 'Schwarms' of Messerschmitt Me109's from Jagdgeschwader 51 who had pounced on them over the Channel. Four pilots and six gunners were either dead or missing with others wounded.
One of the five Defiants that did not return was crewed by 22 years old Flight Lieutenant Ian David Grahame Donald and his air-gunner, Pilot Officer Arthur Charles Hamilton, aged 28 and from North Harrow in Middlesex.
When the nine Defiants were attacked by the Messerschmitts, all of the RAF machines were hit and two of them immediately tumbled away down towards the sea, their crews never to be seen again. Donald and Hamilton in Defiant L7009 (HT-W) adorned with a painted cockerel emblem and the name 'Cock o' the North', were fighting for their lives in an aircraft ablaze from nose to tail; in a desperate attempt to escape the enemy and return to Hawkinge, they dived down towards the sea. Approaching Dover the ailing RAF fighter struggled for height and for reasons not known, Hamilton managed to extricate himself from the confines of his turret and bale out, but he sadly never survived his descent into the sea
Still on fire the Defiant raced across Dover and turned towards the Elms Vale area as it then flew along the valley, where tragically for the pilot his luck soon ran out. When only four miles from Hawkinge the engine of the stricken fighter faltered and Donald perished as the doomed aircraft slammed into the side of a hill
Donald was buried in Tilford (All Saints) Cemetery in Surrey, and the body of Hamilton was recovered from the sea and he was laid to rest in Hawkinge Cemetery. At the bottom of his headstone are the words: "To the dear memory of "Arch"..He that giveth his life shall find it."
Donald was born on 3rd September 1917 and was the son of Air Marshal Sir Grahame Donald. He was educated at Dulwich College and joined the RAF in early 1936.
Hamilton had only joined the RAF in March 1940 as a direct-entry Air Gunner and after training was posted to 141 Squadron in May. His career was fated to be very short. It's recorded that Hamilton had a Southern Rhodesian connection and there is a memorial plaque in the hall of Churchill School, Causeway in Zimbabwe
141 Squadron were known as the 'Cock Squadron' after winning an inter-squadron competition in 1918. Thus tradition saw the squadron name its Defiant aircraft like 'Cock o' the North', 'Cock-a-hoop', 'Cocksure' and 'Cocked for Firing' to name but some.