This is the second in a new series ~ Spitfire Pilots. This one highlights Hartland (Hart) Finley.
SQUADRON LEADER HARTLAND (HART) FINLEY
R.C.A.F SEPT. 14 1940 – MAY 25 1946
Hartland Ross Finley DFC was born in Montreal, Quebec. He was the son of Major Eric B. Finley and Eugene Marjorie Finley. He graduated from McGill University, Montreal and on September 14,1940, he enlisted in the R.C.A.F.
Finley received air crew instruction at Toronto Ontario, Windsor Mills QC, Summerside PEI and graduated as a pilot from No2 Service Flying Training School in Ottawa on December 28, 1942.
In February 1943, Finley arrived overseas and by September 1943 had carried out many missions with Fighter Command Squadrons No 1, No 416, and No 403 flying Spitfire aircraft. On his very first operational sortie, August 12, 1943, his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire puncturing one of his fuel tanks. Returning from his mission, he ran out of fuel; he bailed out, parachuting into the English Channel and was rescued by the Royal Navy rescue launch and returned to his Squadron.
By December 1944, he had flown 153 combat missions destroying a number of enemy aircraft. Earning some leave, he was able to come home for Christmas in 1944, returning to England in 1945; he was promoted to Squadron Leader and posted to 403 Squadron and later to 443 Squadron. He was a wonderful leader and his men had a high respect for him.
During his May 1945 mission, after destroying a JU88 bomber, he was once more hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire and had to bail out, and landed in enemy occupied territory. Finley avoided capture for several days and was rescued by a British tank crew and once again was returned to his squadron just prior to the end of the war.
After retiring from the RCAF, Hart joined the Civil Aviation of Transport Canada. Squadron Leader Hart Finley was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Hartland (Hart) Finley is described as a wonderful man, who lived his entire life with grace and dignity. Because of ill health he moved to Victoria BC to be near his family. He passed away in 2009.