The Allies' first air ace of WW2, New Zealander Flying Officer Edgar. ("Cobber") Kain was one of the greatest legends of the first year of the war. His successes in the air, coupled with his warm personality and charm, made him the media's favourite airman of late 1939 and early 1940. He served with No. 73 Squadron, RAF, in France, where he is officially credited with shooting down 14 German aircraft between November 1939 and June 1940.
Rouvres airfield, France, winter of 1939/40. On a cold, misty day, Sergeant T. B. G. ‘Titch’ Pyne, a British pilot serving with 73 Squadron, smiles as he watches two armourers rearming the .303 Browning MGs of his Hawker Hurricane Mk I.
F/O Edgar J "Cobber" Kain of No 73 Squadron RAF leans on Hurricane Mk I PADDYIII at Rouvres in October 1939. Kain scored his fourth and fifth victories on 26 March 1940, before being wounded and forced to bail out. The 21-year-old pilot was killed in a flying accident while doing acrobatics over Échemines airfield on 7 June 1940, while returning a war-weary fighter to Britain for an overhaul. The wreckage was left where it was to warn others not to play over the field.
Sgt Sydney G Stuckey is flanked by pilots of No 73 Squadron RAF in France where the 25-year-old pilot served until ordered away from Reims to No 1 Depot at RAF Uxbridge on 13 May 1940, with F/O Aidan B Tucker, Sgt Donald H Sewell and Sgt Brian Speake. The ORB recorded that "these pilots have been adversely reported on by the CO and their respective flight commanders". No action was taken against any of them and they were posted to other fighter units, Stuceky to No 213 Squadron RAF.
Pilots of No 73 Squadron RAF stage a mock scramble at RAF Digby in 1939 shortly before moving to Octeville on 9 September and to Rouvres a month later. Identified third left is P/O Peter V "Decoy" Ayerst, who joined B Flight under F/L John E "Ian" Scoular 4 weeks previously, aged 18, with F/O Edgar J "Cobber" Kain as his section leader. He had been inside a Hawker cockpit only 3 times, and as he said himself had "bugger-all experience", before being pitched into operational flying in France.
Within 4 hours of arrival at RAF Debden with No 73 Squadron RAF on 5 September 1940, F/L Reginald E "Reg" Lovett was pressed into action to reinforce No 11 Group, which had been taking the brunt of the Luftwaffe attacks on the south of England. In combat over Burnham, the 26-year-old A Flight leader was shot up in Hurricane Mk I TP-H on 5 September and bailed out, unhurt. He was killed in combat in TP-E near Billericay 2 days later, with 3 destroyed, 1 probable and 1 and 1 shared damaged.