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Percy Burton - killed ramming an enemy aircraft after running out of ammunition

Percival Ross-Frames Burton was born in 1917 in Cape Province, South Africa and joined the South African Coast Garrison and Citizen Forces in 1935. He later went to Britain, to Christ Church College, Oxford to read Jurisprudence. In 1938 he was reserve cox for the Oxford crew in the University Boat Race.

Burton learned to fly with the University Air Squadron and was called up in October 1939. After completing his training at FTS Cranwell he arrived at 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on 22nd June 1940 to convert to Hurricanes and joined 249 Squadron at Church Fenton on 21st July.

On the morning of 27th September the squadron engaged a formation of Me110s of V/LG1. The Hurricanes broke the Germans two defensive circles and the enemy aircraft went south at low level, heading for the Channel. Burton pursued one of the 110s for about forty miles, often at little more than treetop height, but the German pilot, the Gruppe Kommandeur of V/LGI, Hauptmann Horst Liensberger, was unable to shake him off. Just north of Hailsham, Burton's guns stopped firing (presumably due to being out of ammunition) and the two aircraft skimmed over the rooftops. The Hurricane, V6883, was above and behind the Me110. Burton suddenly banked and made what appeared to be an attack. Both machines lurched and an object spun away. The tail unit of the 110 dropped into a field, followed by the rest of the aircraft. The falling object was the wingtip of Burton's Hurricane. His aircraft crashed into a huge oak tree on New Barn Farm, throwing its dead pilot clear and burning itself out in a field.

The German crew were buried in Hailsham Cemetery but were exhumed after the war and buried elsewhere. Burton is buried in St Andrew's churchyard, Tangmere.

Eye-witness reports indicate strongly that he deliberately rammed the Me110. A letter from Fighter Command to the Hailsham ARP Chief said that Burton was to be recommended for a posthumous gallantry award. This could only have been the VC but in fact he only received a Mention in Despatches.

In 1980 a road on a housing estate near to the site of the crash site was named 'Burton Walk' in his memory.

There is a related print (below) 'Rooftop Pursuit' by the noted aviation artist Geoff Nutkins.

Photos and text courtesy of Battle of Britain Monument website

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