war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper




James, James, and David Kirton

"A DOVER FAMILY'S TRAGEDY" by Phil Wyborn-Brown

They lie together, just to the right of the footpath as you approach the War Graves Commission section in St James Cemetery, Dover. The first white headstone records the simple facts; it tells us that here lies James H Kirton RN, Electrical Artificer 3rd class, HMS Tarlair, died 9th November 1918, just two days before the war’s end. He was twenty seven years old.

The second headstone tells a similar tale; this time it is for Sergeant Pilot David Kirton RAF, died 8th August 1940, aged just twenty one. Two headstones bearing the name Kirton – coincidence or connection?

The answer is connection; James and David are father and son. James was married to Violet Kathleen, who was expecting their second child when James died at HMS Tarlair, a shore base in Scotland, of pneumonia. David was born on the 2nd of June 1919, so father and son never held each other.

With the coming of the second war David followed his elder brother, James, into the RAF, joining straight from school (he is an old Pharosian) to become a photographer. David gained his wings in 1939 and served with 501 squadron, flying Hurricanes from April 1940. He then transferred to 65 squadron and flew the Spitfire Mk1a in May of that year. On August 8th, a bright clear and sunny summer’s day, David was scrambled from his base at Kenley to intercept a raid on a passing convoy in the channel; he was flying a Spitfire 1a, K9911.

The German bomber force was escorted by the famous ‘Abbeville boys’ the yellow nosed Me109s of JG26 and it was Oberleutnant Willy Fronhofer, flying a Me109E4 from his base in Caffiers, who shot David down at aprox 11.30 that morning. David came to ground near Manston; his body was recovered and he was buried in St James next to his father following a service in St James Church (next to the White Horse Public House) on August 13th

David’s brother James went on to become a Squadron Leader and was killed flying a Wellington bomber on the night of 27th January 1944; the aircraft was on a training flight and the cause of the crash remains unknown. James is buried in Desborough Cemetery, Northamptonshire,

Willy Fronhofer’s war ended just 23 days after David’s, he was shot down by Pilot Officer Colin Gray DFC of 54 Squadron and crash-landed on Jubilee Hill, Ulcombe, near Maidstone, Kent on the 31st August, he survived the crash-landing and became a POW.

Violet Kirton remarried, becoming Violet Calton, she lived to be at least 96 and sponsored a bench to both her sons' memories which can be found in Granville Gardens; she lived at 20 Marine Parade, as did David.

In recent years the airfield at Hawkinge, where David served as ground crew, has been built upon with new housing and roads, one of which is Kirton Close.

pictures by Phil Wyborn-Brown


Copyright 2012  © Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved