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The End

We are lucky to have a first hand account of the death of Adrian Laws written by one of his fellow pilots. Arthur Gerald Donahue, Pilot Officer and American farm boy.

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Donahue
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Quite an unusual mix for Britain in 1940, his propaganda potential was duly noted and a book was commissioned, "Tally-Ho! - A Yankee in a Spitfire". Many passages of Donahue's book are aimed directly at influencing the American reader's opinion about the European war that was now lapping against Britain's shores. He opens his narrative with an apology for the fact that his hero (being himself) is less than heroic, and that his story is not very bloodcurdling compared to fictional air stories that had flooded the American magazines at that time. He goes on...

But this story is true, and I hope that some of you may consider its shortcomings compensated for by the fact that the characters in this story really exist - or existed; that the occurrences in this story, though less spectacular, really occurred; and that the characters who meet death in it really did meet death, in the savage and desperate struggle that is being fought for the safety of the world, including you.

Donahue joined 64 squadron on 4th August 1940. He was shot down by an Me 109 on 12th August, managing to bail out wounded. He was to spend slightly less than seven weeks recovering from his wounds.

Throughout his book Donahue uses pseudonyms when referring to his fellow pilots, a requirement of wartime security. When he writes of his return to the squadron in late September we meet a character called "Andy". From the known facts it is easy to positively identify Andy as Adrian Laws.

I rejoined my squadron several days before my leave expired...I learned that the heroism of some of the boys hadn't gone unrecognised. Three DFC's and one DFM had gone to the squadron...Andy, who had four confirmed,received the DFM because he was a flight sergeant and not a commissioned officer at the time...He had worked up from the ranks to become an exceptional fighter pilot. He had just been awarded a commission as pilot officer but wasn't living in the officers' mess yet because he hadn't yet purchased his uniform.

Moving on to 29th September...

That night Andy appeared in the officers' mess for the first time, wearing his new uniform as an officer, with the pretty, striped purple and white silk ribbon of his DFM looking very neat under his wings on the left side of his chest. If anyone deserved a commission and the right to wear the King's uniform, he did. He had been a mainstay of the squadron all through from the time of Dunkirk, acting as leader of the squadron's rear-guard section most of the time, often with pilots of higher rank following him in his section; and he had certainly "served his King and Country well."

We were all glad afterward that he got to spend that evening in the mess, and I'm glad that I spent a pleasant hour with him in his room before we went to bed, chatting with him about America, in which he was very interested, and lending him some American magazines. We arranged that the next morning Percy, a new pilot, and I would fly with him in a section of three machines to a target range where we would do some aerial target practise.

Next morning Andy had to give a group of new pilots some practise flying before we went to the target range; so as I was badly in need of some practise too I went for a little cross-country jaunt in my machine, familiarising myself with our present sector of operations. While I was up I could hear distant voices over the R/T which I knew were those of Andy and the pilots he was flying with. When I heard them plainly I could tell it was usually Andy giving one of the others some order, or coaching them on their flying. I didn't pay much attention to what was being said, but I noticed that when I was returning to the airdrome Control seemed to be calling "Yellow One" and having difficulty in getting a reply.

The leader of Yellow section was Andy, and he wasn't having trouble with his R/T. Percy ran out to meet me as I taxied in, and with agonised face told me, "Andy and Nels have collided and Andy's gone in, and it looks like there isn't much hope!"

There wasn't. After half an hour's dumb sad waiting around the telephone in our pilots' hut we heard the story. His tail had been sheared off and his machine had gone all the way down, tumbling over and over, and for some reason he hadn't bailed out. Nels had managed to land safely at another airdrome, as his machine wasn't badly damaged.

Just another little sacrifice among the many thousands to curb one man's savage desire for power, of course; but I think for most of us in the squadron the loss of Andy was one of the most painful we'd had to bear.

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Wells Cemetery
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Laws' Gravestone
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Inscription
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Punch Ltd.

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