Paddy Finucane

On the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, it seems an appropriate moment to put up my painting of Paddy Finucane entitled 'First Day in Combat'

'First Day in Combat' -P.O. B.E.F. Finucane
As with so many of these pilots’ stories, there is much that is fascinating, courageous and touching about the story of ‘Paddy’ Finucane, that I would be hard pressed to do justice to his story here. Fortunately that might be unnecessary, given the recent release of a film about him, ‘The Shamrock Spitfire’ (which I look forward to watching).

It was Finucane’s later prowess in combat flying and great leadership skills that brought him wartime fame (that he in no way sought or even wanted). One of the things that struck me most when I read his biography was the experience of his first day in combat, leading me to paint this moment, only his 2nd encounter with enemy aircraft.

In his first, that morning, separated from the main combat after taking evasive action, he returned to the attack in a lone strike against a formation of 12 Me109s, taking out the tailmost aircraft in a textbook piece of incredibly bold combat flying.

The Squadron had barely refuelled after this encounter, when they were scrambled again, taking off through a storm of bombs dropping on the airfield around them. The ensuing combat included this moment - Finucane follows down the Me109 he’s just drawn smoke from, but is forced to break sharply upwards to avoid another moving in to attack him. Seconds later, he would inflict further damage on another Me109 too.

Most pilots in the Battle describe their first combat as being about simply staying alive, which in itself was no mean achievement. Yet here, despite the overwhelming intensity of his first two aerial combats, and narrowly escaping death whilst taking off through a curtain of falling bombs, Finucane had brought down 2 enemy fighters and damaged a 3rd, all in less time than it has taken me to write this whole piece.

So it is a snapshot of that ‘first day’ for him that I have chosen to depict. A day which seems so prophetic of the tragically short, bright, meteoric path that this quietly heroic, unassuming Irishman was to follow.

Detail showing Spitfire and Me 109  in painting 'First Day in Combat'

Painting: ‘First Day in Combat’ – Spitfire of P.O. B.E.F. Finucane, 65 Squadron, near Margate 12/8/1940. (Oil on fine linen canvas board, c.16”x12”)