Pilot Officer Hugh Henry-May
Hugh Henry-May was born in 1917, in Wandsworth. He was the youngest son of Freeman Edwards Henry-May and Carrie Susan Henry-May (nee Athow) and had two older siblings, Poppy Alexandra and Roy Athow. In the early 1930’s the Henry-May family were living at 52 Upper Park Fields, Putney, London.
Hugh may have been at King’s College School in 1926. From 1931 to 1933, he attended Harrow School, before studying at London University Imperial College and joining the RAF.
Acting Pilot Officer Hugh Henry-May did his flying training at No.7 FTS at RAF Peterborough, from 18th April, 1936. He was posted to No.3 Fighter Squadron at Kenley, on 25th October, 1936, along with two of his classmates, D.B. Hobson and P. D’A Lister. The three of them were confirmed as Pilot Officers on 3rd March, 1937, but towards the end of the month, Hobson and Henry-May both had accidents in the squadron’s Bristol Bulldogs. On the 20th, Hobson’s engine cut and he made a forced landing, and on the 31st, Henry-May “stalled and crashed 200 yards from the aerodrome,” the accident being caused by the “engine oiling-up whilst gliding on landing in formation“. Hugh was unhurt but the Bulldog (K1626) was a write off.
Henry-May suffered another landing accident on 27th May, 1937; this time in one of the Squadron’s new Gloster Gladiators – K7893. He overshot the aerodrome, went through a hedge and stood the aircraft up on it’s nose. Luckily, Hugh again escaped unhurt.
At the end of February 1938, Hugh Henry-May was appointed Squadron Air Firing Instructor, after returning from a course at No.3 ATC. About a week later, the first of No.3 Squadron’s new Hawker Hurricanes was delivered to Kenley. No.3 was the second squadron to receive the new and much more advanced fighter, but operating them from Kenley proved difficult. On the 5th May, Pilot Officer J. D. Mills stalled after take-off on his first flight in a Hurricane, but escaped unhurt, despite doing considerable damage to the aircraft.
Sadly, Hugh Henry-May wasn’t so lucky on the 10th, when he suffered his third landing accident at Kenley, in Hurricane Mk.I (L1579). The aircraft stalled on approach and crashed from about 200ft, fatally injuring the young pilot. Today, he lies at rest alongside his RAF comrades in Airmen’s Corner, at St. Luke’s churchyard, Whyteleafe.
More information on Hugh Henry-May and his crash is available on the links below.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.