Service Details
Given Name:
Service No:
Pilot Officer
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Royal Air Force
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602 Sqdn.
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Date of Death:
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Date of Birth:
Cause of Death:
Killed in action, Hurricane I P2728, at about 5 pm, a force of 300+ enemy aircraft with fighter escort crossed the South Coast in order to fly up the Thames Estuary to bomb London for the second successive night. Twenty four squadrons of the RAF were ordered to intercept this raid by Sir Keith Park of 11 Group. At 1730 hrs 607 Squadron flying Hurricanes from Tangmere made their first contact with the Luftwaffe over Mayfield in Kent. They lined up in formation and went in before the fighter escorts could come down on them. S/Ldr. Vick was leading the patrol of twelve aircraft at 17000 feet and reported that he saw about 60/70 Ju88's and Do17's flying north in several formations of five in a V formation. As the squadron turned to attack the bombers a force of about 40/50 Me109's dived at them from 19000 feet. Blue Section was ordered to attack the bombers from underneath with Green Section carrying out a rearguard action, whilst Red and Yellow Sections (P/O Drake Yellow 3) were to attack the fighters. During the ensuing dogfights P/O Drake was shot down and killed along with P/O Parnell and P/O Lenahan, whilst Sergeants Lansdell, Spyer, and Burnell-Philips were wounded
"One of the few" Battle of Britain pilot. Native of South Africa. Born in Kroonstad, in the province of Pretoria, South Africa, George James Drake was the son of the local stationmaster having two brothers Eric and Arthur and a sister Edna. He matriculated at Paarl Boy's High School in 1938 and was a member of the Paarl Branch of the St John Ambulance Association. He always wanted to fly and tried to enlist into the South African Air Force but was unsuccessful. Determined to fly, George Drake worked his way to England on a merchant ship and joined the RAF on a 6 year short service commission on June 12th 1939. By August 5th he was promoted to Acting Pilot Officer on probation. P/O Drake's name was later recorded on Panel 8 of the RAF Memorial at Runnymede, in Surrey. By 1972 members of the Ashford and Tenterden Aviation Recovery Group, chaired by Mr David Buchana, had recovered nine aircraft in the Sussex and Kent area that had been shot down during WW2. They began to receive information that a Spitfire had been seen to crash in the Goudhurst area of Kent during the Battle of Britain and some of the witnesses were still alive. The crash site was located with their help and permission obtained from the MoD to recover any aircraft remains at Bockingfold Farm, Goudhurst. The team began digging and soon recovered the complete engine, airframe and bits of armour plate from behind the pilot's seat. Most significantly, pieces of the aircraft were recovered that indicated that it was in fact a Hurricane - on one piece of recovered plywood the serial number P2728 was found. When an intact parachute pack was found along with personal effects including a nail file, a silver coloured cigarette case and a faded South African bank note, digging was halted and the police at Cranbrook were informed. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission became involved and supervised the excavation, certain that with the Hurricane's serial number being known then this was probably the site of P/O George Drake's crash. Soon after work resumed the pilot's body was discovered at a depth of 4.5 metres in the well preserved cockpit of his Hurricane. The case of P/O Drake was referred to HM Coroner and an inquest held in Kent on the 7th November 1972 returning a verdict 'Killed by an Act of War'. The authorities successfully traced George Drake's family in Boksburg near Johannesburg, South Africa, and his two remaining brothers Arthur and Eric flew to the UK for the funeral service. This was held at Brookwood Military Cemetery near Pirbright, Surrey, on November 22nd 1972. P/O George Drake was laid to rest with full military honours having a six gun salute fired by riflemen from the RAF Regiment
United Kingdom
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Grave Reference:
XXII. E. 2.

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