Tin funeral wreath plaque: Second Lieutenant John Hay, 40 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps

Accession Number REL34599
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Paint, Tin
Maker Unknown
Place made France
Date made 1917
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Tin plaque cut to the shape of a ribbon. One side is painted in white with the words 'A NOTRE FRE...' [A Notre Frere] in light blue in a decorative font. There is a mounting hole at one end of the plaque. The final 95 mm of one end has detached.

History / Summary

Associated with Second Lieutenant John 'Jack' Hay, an Australian serving with 40 Squadron Royal Flying Corps (RFC). Jack Hay was the son of Isabella and William Hay. He was born at Double Bay, New South Wales on 22 January 1889 and was educated at Shore, Sydney Church of England Grammar School. Hay travelled to England where he gained his Royal Aero Club Aviators Certificate on 2 June 1916 and enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps. In August 1916 he travelled to France with 40 Squadron RFC, who were equipped with FE 8 pusher biplanes.

On 23 January, the day after his 28th birthday, he shot down two German planes, before becoming the 17th victim of the famous German Ace, Baron Manfred von Richthofen. That day, aircraft from 40 squadron and those of Jasta 11, led by von Richthofen fought near Lens. During the battle Hay's plane caught fire after being attacked by von Richthofen, flying in a red Albatros DIII. Hay lept, or fell from his plane to his death. British pilots were not issued with parachutes and it was not unusual for pilots to leap to a quick death, rather than burn in the highly combustible aircraft. Hay's body was recovered by Canadian troops and was buried at Aire Communal Cemetery in France.