Service number 74348
Born: June 6th 1917
Died: September 27th 1940
Percy Burton was born in the Cape Province, South Africa. His father was the Rt. Hon. Henry Burton, P.C., K.C., LL.B. (a South African lawyer and sometime Minister of Finance who died in 1935), and his mother was Helen Marie Kannemeyer, of Retreat, Cape Province, South Africa. Percy was their youngest son.
He was educated at Diocesan College, Rondebosch, Cape Town and matriculated in 1938, coming up in the Hilary Term. He read Jurisprudence. He was reserve cox for the University boat in 1938. He learnt to fly with the Oxford University Air Squadron.
He was called up in October 1939 as a member of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. After completing his training at the Flying Training School, Cranwell, he was posted to No. 6 Officer Training Unit, Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire, on June 22nd 1940 in order to convert to the Hawker “Hurricane“, and joined No 249 (Gold Coast) Squadron at Church Fenton, in North Yorkshire, on July 21st 1940.
On the morning of September 27th, the squadron engaged a formation of Me110's of V/LG1. The Hurricanes broke the Germans' two defensive circles and the enemy aircraft went south at low level, heading for the Channel. Burton pursued one of the 110's for about forty miles, often at little more than treetop height, and the German pilot, the Gruppe Kommandeur of V/LGI, Hauptmann Horst Liensberger, was unable to shake him off. Just north of Hailsham, Burton's guns stopped firing (presumably due to being out of ammunition) and the two aircraft skimmed over the rooftops. The Hurricane, V6883, was above and behind the Me110. Burton banked, suddenly, and made what appeared to be an attack. Both machines lurched and an object spun away.
The tail unit of the 110 dropped into a field, followed by the rest of the aircraft. The falling object was the wingtip of Burton's Hurricane. His aircraft crashed into a huge oak tree on New Barn Farm, throwing its dead pilot clear and burning itself out in a field.
Eyewitness reports indicated that he deliberately rammed the Me110. A letter from Fighter Command to the Hailsham ARP Chief said that Burton was to be recommended for a posthumous gallantry award. He received a Mention in Despatches.
Percy is buried in St Andrew's churchyard, Tangmere, Sussex
Plot E. Row 1. Grave 480.
The German crew were buried in Hailsham Cemetery but were exhumed after the war and buried elsewhere
In 1980 a road on a housing estate near the site of the crash site was named 'Burton Walk' in his memory.
See his brother, Flight-Lieutenant William Westbrooke Burton.
Image: Burton (right) with his 249 Squadron colleague JRB Meaker, who was also killed on 27th September