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Frederick Carter appeals for information about father's rescue of Battle of Britain Spitfire pilot at Deal

By Eleanor Perkins

Frederick Carter, 71, vaguely remembers his father, of the same name, mentioning the 1940 incident during his childhood. But it is only since his death in 1962 that he has learnt a little more.

Now, in the lead up to the 77th anniversary of it happening, he is keen to be able to paint the full picture.

Frederick Carter swam two miles off Deal to rescue a pilot for his crashed aircraft

Frederick Carter swam two miles off Deal to rescue a pilot for his crashed aircraft

He said: “I’d like to know a little bit more about it.

“Between my sister and me, we’ve found out a few things by going through his possessions.

“I think this is his claim to fame. He was quite brave to do it.”

On Wednesday, August 21, 1940, Mr Carter Snr, an Army dispatch rider, was walking along Deal Marina with a friend, PTE J Worthington, when they witnessed a Spitfire crash into the sea.

The two men swam out for about two miles, successfully rescuing the pilot, James Alexander Reid Falconer, before they were all picked up by a boat.

They later received telegrams from the RAF and General Headquarters of the Home Forces commenting on their bravery.

Mr Carter Snr was also awarded the wings from the pilot’s tunic which were presented in an engraved metal case.

From an article printed in The Scotsman in January 29, 1942, Mr Carter Jnr has learnt that the pilot had started flying shortly before the war at the age of 19, and after leaving Cambridge joined a Scottish fighter squadron.

The article reports a later incident in which the pilot is missing, wounded and a prisoner of war. The headline reads: “Edinburgh Fighter Pilot Wounded and Prisoner of War”.

But, it also gives mention to the incident in Deal which took place some months earlier. It states: “Pilot officer Falconer had an exciting experience while taking part in a “scrap” over enemy country in August last.

“His petrol tank, one of the wings, and his instrument board were hit by cannon shells and he was wounded by shrapnel in both legs. He extinguished a fire in his petrol tank by a steep side-slip and then endeavoured to cross the Channel.

“When about two miles from the English coast his engine seized, the shattered wing stalled and the Spitfire crashed sideways into the sea, thereafter turning upside down.

“After being down about 15ft, pilot officer Falconer managed to reach the surface and swam for half an hour until two soldiers reached him.

“They rendered assistance pending the arrival of a rescue boat, by which time all three were in an exhausted condition.

“He resumed active duty with his squadron about a fortnight later.”

An engraved cigarette case and wings gifted to Frederick Carter for his bravery, along with a letter he received from the pilot's father

An engraved cigarette case and wings gifted to Frederick Carter for his bravery, along with a letter he received from the pilot's father

Mr Carter Jnr, of Clanwilliam Road, Deal,  said: “He was a bit unlucky to be shot down twice. I wonder if he’s still alive?”

Mr Carter Snr remained in Deal until his death on June 19, 1962, aged 47.

Following his time in the Armed Forces, he worked as a miner at Betteshanger Colliery.

He married Daisy Carter on May 6, 1939, in Biddenden, Kent, close to her family home. They lived together in Douglas Road, Deal, and had two children, Daisy, now 75, living in St Richard’s Road, and retired builder Frederick, 71, who runs a Fairway’s Guest House in Clanwilliam Road, with his wife, Patricia.

Mr Carter Jnr would like to hear from anyone who may remember the incident, have witnessed it or be able to uncover more about Mr Carter Snr or PTE.J Worthington.

His search for more information will allow him to “put it to bed”.

If you think you could help? Call Frederick Carter on 01304 374387.

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