Service number 74336
Born: July 12th 1919
Died: February 19th 1942
Paul was the youngest of the three sons of Sir Basil Mayhew and his first wife, Dorothea Mary Paget. He had three sisters. The family lived in London where Paul was born. His father, a partner in an accountancy firm, was knighted in 1920. Lady Mayhew died in 1931 and Sir Basil married, Beryl Colman, the following year. He bought Felthorpe Hall, Norwich in 1935. The Mayhews owned it until 1958.
Paul was educated at Haileybury College and Matriculated in 1938, coming up as an Exhibitioner to read Modern Greats. Both of his brothers had preceded him to Christ Church. With his brother, Patrick, he had visited the United States that summer, returning to Southampton on the Normandie on September 5th.
He joined the University Air Squadron and in June 1939, joined the RAFVR as an Airman u/t Pilot.
He was commissioned on September 26th and sent to No 1 ITW Cambridge. In mid-November, he was posted to the flying training school at Cranwell. He was awarded his flying badge in the following February, and was sent to CGS, Warmwell and then to No 1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum on May 9th. He was posted to 5 OTU, Aston Down on June 23rd 1940.
After converting to Spitfires, he was posted to 32 Squadron at Biggin Hill on July 6th, flying Hurricanes. On the 11th he went to 79 Squadron at Acklington.
On August 15th he damaged a Me110. On the 27th, the squadron went south to Biggin Hill and, next day, he shared in the destruction of a He59. His Hurricane was damaged in combat on the 29th, and he shot down a He111 on the 30th.
From the Operations Report for Sunday September 1st 1940
WEATHER: Most of the country could expect cloudy patches for most of the morning with sunny periods. Temperatures expected were to be a little higher than average with the cloud burning off about midday giving way to fine and sunny conditions.
OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:
1015hrs: The day held the same usual pattern as did many of the preceding days, quiet early, but at mid morning a build up of enemy aircraft was detected by the radar stations at Dover, Foreness and Pevensy. The Luftwaffe kept to their standard pattern of sending in a small formation of Bf109s first as a diversionary, but as usual they are ignored by Fighter Command. These are followed by 60+ bombers that consisted of formations of Dornier Do17s and Bf110s with the fighter escort of Bf109s at higher altitude.
Just prior to reaching the Kent coast, they broke up into a number of smaller formations, each designated to a different target. Again it was the airfields of Fighter Command that bore the brunt of the Luftwaffe attacks, Eastchurch, Rochford, Detling and once again Biggin Hill. A total of ten squadrons were given the order to readiness, and once again, it seemed as though 11 Group would be stretched to the limit as the German bombers were heading for four different areas at the same time.
1400 hours: attack continues on to Kenley where Do17s come in low. One of them is shot down by the Hurricanes of 85 Squadron. It tries to return towards the coast hoping that it could get back to base, but with both engines now in flames the bomber crashes near Dungeness. Three of the crew managed to bale out and were captured, but a fourth was killed when the aircraft crashed. P/O Colin Gray of 54 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) managed to hit a Bf109 which with a damaged engine had to make a forced landing in a field near Rye. The pilot was also captured. A Bf110 after completing its bombing run on Biggin Hill, was shot down by P/O P F Mayhew of 79 Squadron Biggin Hill (Hurricanes) and it exploded as it hit the ground at Brasted killing both crew on board.
The squadron moved to Pembrey on the 8th. On the evening of September 29th, Paul was one of a section which intercepted eight He111’s over the Irish Sea. He chased them, but was without the rest of his section when he caught up with the He111’s, about 15 miles off the Irish coast. In the face of intense crossfire, he attacked.the Heinkels. They jettisoned their bombs and turned for home. At the same time, some of the Hurricanes arrived and attacked. One Heinkel was hit and fell back with one engine smoking. Mayhew made a further attack on this aircraft, which went down and was, later, confirmed as destroyed. The other Hurricanes turned for home, but Mayhew continued to chase the surviving Heinkels. Some time later, he found himself over the Atlantic about 70 miles southwest of Wexford. He turned for home. However with darkness falling and being very low on fuel, he made a wheels-up landing in a stubble field at Enniscorthy, County Wexford.
The Irish authorities interned him. He was held at the Curragh Camp. His Hurricane, P5178 was impounded by the Irish Air Corps, entering back in service with them as #93.
In December, he was given permission to travel, daily, to Dublin, to study for an honours degree at Dublin University. Other internees joined him. On January 20th 1941, he and three others broke out of their compound in heavy snow. He was recaptured when nine miles from Dublin. In the early hours of June 26th 1941, he led a well-prepared escape with nine other internees. He and five others managed to reach Northern Ireland.
Within a couple of months, he married Monica G. Stancliffe at Grantham.
He returned to 79 Squadron, then at Fairwood Common. In late 1941 he was made a Flight Commander and in December the squadron moved to Baginton to prepare for a possible move overseas.
On the 19th of February 1942, Paul led his flight on an uneventful defensive patrol. On return to Baginton, he ordered his pilots to land, but he stayed up. Soon afterwards, he flew across the aerodrome but, on turning, his engine stalled. Being too low to recover height, he crashed. He was severely injured and did not recover consciousness.
His name is on the memorial at Birmingham [Perry Bar] Crematorium.
See the Papers of his brother, Christopher, Baron Mayhew of London
With thanks to the Mayhew family.