James, James, and David Kirton
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
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.
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.
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