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Paddy Finucane joined the Royal Air Force in May 1938. After flying training and conversion to the Supermarine Spitfire he was posted as a Pilot Officer to No. 65 Squadron RAF at RAF Hornchurch in 1940. Finucane claimed his first victory in the Battle of Britain on 12 August 1940, a Messerschmitt Bf 109.[3] No. 65 Squadron RAF was rested at the end of August 1940 and did not return to 11 Group until November. Flying from RAF Tangmere, by year's end, Finucane had claimed four Bf 109s and a Messerschmitt Bf 110.

A year later in April 1941, Finucane was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and posted as a Flight commander to the newly formed Australian No. 452 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force at RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey, the first RAAF squadron to serve in Fighter Command.[N 1] The squadron made its debut on operations in July 1941. "Paddy" added 17 fighter claims to his score by his 21st birthday in October 1941, also being awarded a Distinguished Service Order.

In January 1942, Finucane was given command of No. 602 Squadron RAF at RAF Redhill. On 20 February 1942, Finucane was slightly wounded in the leg during a strafing mission with his new command. Four Focke Wulf Fw 190s fell to his guns in March 1942. Finucane's fame spread beyond RAF ranks and "model airplanes of his Spitfire with the vivid green Shamrocks were sold all along Piccadilly Circus and The Strand."[4]

Finucane became the youngest Wing Commander in the RAF on 27 June 1942, leading the Hornchurch Wing.

Finucane was killed at the age of 21 on 15 July 1942, when he was leading the Hornchurch Wing in a fighter "Ramrod" operation (attack by fighters using cannon and machine gun against a ground target) targeting a German army camp at Etaples, France. He always said that the Luftwaffe would never get him, and coming out at low level, his Spitfire was hit by a ground shot from a single machine gun post near Pointe du Touquet which hit the radiator of his Spitfire.[5] He flew slowly out to sea, talking calmly to his comrades as they defended the stricken fighter from pursuing German fighter planes. Finally, when some eight miles off Le Touquet, on the French coast,[5] he sent his last message, spoken probably as his engine stopped: "This is it, chaps." He crashed from about three metres above the sea, and his Spitfire sank at once.

By the time of his death he had claimed a total of 26 aircraft destroyed, six shared destroyed and eight probably destroyed.

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The last Original Signature of Paddy Finucane which came to the open market last year, sold in a UK public auction for 1,250. This signature was on a signed sheet of paper together with Bader, Beamish and Compton.