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Published on November 5th, 2018 | by Perrin


One Casualty of Corporal Hitler’s Ambitions

Warrant Officer R.A.B. Blumer RAAF

On 19th April 1921 in Croydon, New South Wales, Australia Mr and Mrs Cecil Blumer produced a son and gave him the names Richmond Antony Barrett. Twenty years later he left his job as an Insurance Clerk and enlisted into the Royal Australian Air Force.

He trained as a pilot and during his early flight training in Canada crashed during some unauthorised low flying between two chimneys. Probably because of this bravado his rank remained at Flight Sergeant rather than gaining promotion to Flying Officer. His family called him ‘Tony’ but his colleagues nicknamed him ‘Red’ on account of his bright red hair. Eventually travelling to England he became a member of 91 Squadron, flying Spitfires from Westhampnett in Sussex and Lympne in Kent. In September 1943 he was flying missions over Kent, The Channel and Northern France. His tally stood at two Focke-Wulf 190’s and a Messerschmitt ME109 “destroyed” and a half share in another Focke-Wulf.  Once, an engine failure after a dog fight over Deal meant a swim in the Channel while waiting for rescue. He was unhurt.

That November his luck ran out, while on a *rhubarb he was shot down by flak near Rouen. He managed to evade capture by the Germans with the help of the French Resistance and got back to England via Switzerland and Spain. ‘Red’ was very un- Gallic in appearance, so much so that at one stage the Resistance dyed his hair black!

During his month’s long escape his Squadron had located to West Malling, he turned up there totally unexpected by his fellow airmen. After only three days convalescence he returned to active service. On 25th June 1944, now 23 years old he had been flying Spitfire MKXIV RM617 chasing and shooting down or tipping over the Corporal’s V1 Flying Bombs (Doodlebugs) above Ashford and Tenterden. He touched down at Staplehurst Advanced Landing Ground to refuel. After taking-off again for the short return flight to West Malling the Spitfire was seen to suddenly spin and crash into fields and woodlands behind the Hop Pole Pub in Nettlestead Green, just a couple of miles from base. Today ‘Red’ rests at Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey. The remains of Spitfire RM617 were excavated in 1992 and a memorial to the Australian was placed at the crash site. The pilot’s flying helmet, watch and coins were found still in the wreckage.

A memorial service is held at the Hop Pole every year on the anniversary of the crash.

*RAF Banter for low-level freelance fighter operations against ground targets.

Footnote:  Winston Churchill in his speeches and writings often referred to Adolf Hitler as “Corporal Hitler”. I’ve followed his lead!

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