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Dunkirk pilot’s battle-damaged jacket acquired by Imperial War Museum

Group Captain Ronald N H Courtney was wearing the RAF Service Dress jacket while covering the Dunkirk evacuations.

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Pilot Officer (later Group Captain) Ronald N H Courtney standing in front of a Hawker Hurricane at RAF North Weald in August 1940 during the Battle of Britain (Courtesy of the Courtney family)

Pilot Officer (later Group Captain) Ronald N H Courtney standing in front of a Hawker Hurricane at RAF North Weald in August 1940 during the Battle of Britain (Courtesy of the Courtney family)

Pilot Officer (later Group Captain) Ronald N H Courtney standing in front of a Hawker Hurricane at RAF North Weald in August 1940 during the Battle of Britain (Courtesy of the Courtney family)

A Dunkirk pilot’s battle-damaged jacket has been acquired by the Imperial War Museum.

The item is one of many from the family of Hurricane pilot Group Captain Ronald NH Courtney.

He was wearing the RAF Service Dress jacket when he was shot down and wounded over Dunkirk on May 29, 1940.

The jacket “remains almost untouched, with the shrapnel holes…. still clearly visible… giving a real sense of the dangers pilots faced during this significant operation”, the museum said.

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Pilot Officer (later Group Captain) Ronald N H Courtney’s RAF Service jacket (The Courtney family)

Pilot Officer (later Group Captain) Ronald N H Courtney’s RAF Service jacket (The Courtney family)

Pilot Officer (later Group Captain) Ronald N H Courtney’s RAF Service jacket (The Courtney family)

The Imperial War Museums’ (IWM) head of Second World War, John Delaney, said: “We’re delighted to add Captain Courtney’s historic items to IWM’s Second World War collection ahead of this important anniversary.

“It is a rarity to acquire a battle-damaged uniform and be able to say definitively where and when it was worn and link it to such an important event.

“At the time, the Royal Navy’s contribution at Dunkirk eclipsed the role of the RAF, who many considered to have provided insufficient protection to the stranded troops.

“Today, we are much more aware of the challenges the RAF faced and the vital part they played in the rescue mission.

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German soldiers inspect and pose with Spitfire Mk. 1a N3200 of 19 Squadron, which crash-landed on a beach near Calais while covering the evacuations from Dunkirk on 26 May 1940 (Peter Arnold Collection)

German soldiers inspect and pose with Spitfire Mk. 1a N3200 of 19 Squadron, which crash-landed on a beach near Calais while covering the evacuations from Dunkirk on 26 May 1940 (Peter Arnold Collection)

German soldiers inspect and pose with Spitfire Mk. 1a N3200 of 19 Squadron, which crash-landed on a beach near Calais while covering the evacuations from Dunkirk on 26 May 1940 (Peter Arnold Collection)

“The spirit of Dunkirk has endured and still resonates with people today as a demonstration of how individual and unselfish acts can help towards a much greater cause.”

Nearly 340,000 soldiers from the British Expeditionary Force and French Army were evacuated from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk from May 26 to June 4, 1940.

After being shot down during the rescue mission, Captain Courtney was picked up by a Royal Navy corvette.

This collection also includes his flying logbooks, in which he recorded the incident, as well as photographs from the period and his Distinguished Flying Cross & Bar.

Doors to IWM Duxford and IWM London are temporarily closed.

PA