Pilot Officer Thomas Charles Hey
Flight Sergeant T. C. Hey appears on the War Establishment of No.64 Squadron, on 1 September 1939, as a member of “B” Flight commanded by Flight Lieutenant E. G. Rogers (later Squadron Commanding Officer, killed 29 May 1940).
At the time, the squadron had been based at RAF Church Fenton since May, 1938, and had re-equipped with the Blenheim IF in January, 1939. Following the outbreak of war, the role of 64 Squadron for the next three months was patrolling the North Sea coast and in-shore convoys. Occasionally, intercept missions against radar plots were launched but these failed to make contact.
In early December the squadron was detached to RAF Evanton, Easter Ross, to provide standing patrols of Loch Ewe, at that time a temporary base for the Home Fleet. Flight Sergeant Hey participated in almost daily two hour standing patrols over Loch Ewe during the detachment, including an abandoned sortie on Christmas Day. This detachment ended on 8 January 1940, with all patrols from Evanton having been described as “uneventful”.
Back at Church Fenton the routine of patrolling the North Sea coast and in-shore convoys resumed. The patrols were generally conducted at section strength with Flight Sergeant Hey performing eleven patrols in February and March.
On 17 April the squadron was declared as a Spitfire unit but continued to operate the Blenheim during the transition. Thomas Hey was promoted to Pilot Officer the following day, effective from 1 April, and flew his final operational Blenheim sortie. The next few weeks for Pilot Officer Hey were spent familiarising himself with the new mount.
May, 1940, brought a return to patrolling duties, with “B” Flight detached to operate from Catterick for the first eleven days. As a result of the German successes in Norway and the risk of air raids being launched from there, the squadron moved to RAF Usworth on 11 May. However, the German invasion of Belgium and Holland meant they had scarcely time to unpack before they were called south to 11 Group and RAF Kenley on 16 May.
The first four days at Kenley were quiet for the squadron with only single aircraft patrols being launched. Pilot Officer Hey’s first operational sortie occurred on 22 May, when he was part of “B” Flight escorting a De Havilland Flamingo back from France. As the situation on the Continent worsened the squadron was called upon to mount patrols over Calais and Dunkirk, remarkably, no contact with the enemy was made until 29 May.
Despite being relatively experienced as fighter pilots, 64 Squadron were still finding their feet with the Spitfire. On the afternoon of 29 May, nine aircraft of the squadron took off to patrol Dunkirk here they joined in combat for the first time:
Contact was made on this patrol with inferior numbers of e/a. F/Sgt Flynn accounted for one Me.109. Several other e/a were thought to have been badly damaged. Three aircraft containing as pilots S/L Rogers, P/O George & P/O Hackney respectively, did not return.
Pilot Officer Hey did not participate in this patrol but was called upon to carry out three patrols over Dunkirk over the next two days and once again no airborne contact was made with the enemy. However, earlier in the day on 31 May, the squadron met with German aircraft over Dunkirk. In the ensuing combat the squadron lost Sergeant George Hatch who was wounded and taken prisoner, later dying of his wounds. Having lost four pilots in two days, the squadron could only raise six Spitfires for the patrol over Dunkirk at 15.30, on 1 June. Once again their relative inexperience showed when they encountered German aircraft in their patrol area and lost Pilot Officer Thomas C. Hey.
Thomas Charles Hey was born in Hampshire on 11 June, 1911, the son of Thomas Hey and Jessie Maud (nee Driscoll) Hey. He had married Margaret Mary Amelia Wray at Tadcaster in the summer of 1939 whilst he was stationed at RAF Church Fenton. At the outbreak of the war, the family home was in Deben, Suffolk.
Like many of those lost at Dunkirk, Pilot Officer Thomas Charles Hey’s body probably washed ashore on the Frisian Islands and he was buried in Sage War Cemetery, west of Bremen, Plot 8.A.8.
The inscription on his headstone reads:
Pilot Officer Hey is also remembered on Martlesham War Memorial, Suffolk.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.