Pilot’s memorial overlooks the city he defended

Sgt Hubert Hastings Adair.
Sgt Hubert Hastings Adair.

THIS WEEK IN 1976: Big crowds for the big band sound

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I wonder how many of you, when enjoying a burger on Portsdown Hill, know that just 100 yards behind the van on the other side of the road is a memorial to a young Hurricane pilot who died on November 6, 1940, aged 23.

Sergeant Hubert Hastings Adair, the son of Robert and Elizabeth, came from Norwich and joined the RAF in 1936.

The memorial to the east of The Churchillian pub on top of Portsdown Hill.

The memorial to the east of The Churchillian pub on top of Portsdown Hill.

After training he joined 88 Squadron and flew Fairy Battle aircraft during the Battle of France.

In August 1940 he converted to Hurricanes and was based at Tangmere with 213 Squadron.

He no doubt defended Portsmouth from the Luftwaffe raids in the early years of the war and on the day he died he had been in combat over Southampton.

He was posted as missing and it was assumed he went down in the English Channel. His name is on the Runnymede Memorial near Egham, Surrey.

It is almost certain that he was the 53rd kill of Major Helmut Wick who was himself killed 22 days later.

Their were several eye witnesses to his death as he dived down from 15,000ft and hit the ground at 500mph, but his remains were not recovered.

In 1979 the Wealden Aviation Archaeological Group attempted to recover what was left.

Nine feet down members discovered much of the Hurricane. The 32ft plane was compressed to just 6ft.

The pilot’s remains were also found and on November 22, 1979, the Portsmouth coroner stated that an inquest would not be held.

The coroner ordered the disposal of the remains which were cremated at Portchester Crematorium on October 29, 1979.

Why an inquest was not held is not known, but because of that decision Sgt Adair remains on the Missing in Action list and he never received the ceremonial burial he certainly deserved.

The plaque reads: ‘Sgt HH Adair in Hurricane AK-D-V7602 crashed near here on the 6/11/1940 whilst defending Portsmouth. He fought against superior odds and lost his young life so that future generations could enjoy theirs.’