Terry Prendergast

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Terry Prendergast was shot down in 1944 over Burma in a Hawker Hurricane after a dogfight with five Japanese fighter aircraft. According to his daughter Sue Hay (as reported on thisisdorset.net):

Photo of Terry Prendergast boarding a Hawker Hurricane

Photo of Terry Prendergast boarding a Hawker Hurricane

He had his arm almost completely shot off – it was hanging off by a thread – and when he came to in the jungle he was in a bit of a dilemma.

He thought ‘should I cut it off and run or try to save it?’ He didn’t know where he was until some villagers came out and told him there was an air station nearby.

He managed to patch his arm and get to the station and went on to be one of the first to have both skin and bone grafts.


Although he lost some use of his right arm, he could still write with it. After the war, Terry gained a degree in mechanical engineering.

He flew with my hang gliding club while I was working away and flying in another region, so I did not fly in his company. However, many long-standing pilots in the club did, and they mentioned that they had to be wary of Terry’s directional control. That bad arm had affected his ability to steer a hang glider.

He was the BHGA’s hang gliding safety officer for some years. He subsequently took up paragliding, which he continued with into his early eighties.

Photo of Flight Lieutenant Prendergast

Flight Lieutenant Prendergast

When I was organising the annual summer hang gliding competition—a combined event involving two adjacent clubs—in the early 2000s, on a couple of occasions I postponed the comp at the proverbial last minute: I phoned all the hang-rated club members late on Friday or early on Saturday. Terry was on that list. By then he no longer flew hang gliders, but he took a great interest.


Hang gliders at take-off, Ringstead

Hang gliders at take-off, Ringstead


In this photo by Gail Otton, Terry is the guy ‘talking with his hands’ to a spectator near the parked cars. I am crouching under the red and white glider.

Here is what I wrote on a hang gliding web forum when the subject of WWII veterans arose shortly after Terry visited me at home and came along to watch the flying at Ringstead:

Terry looks surprisingly young, although he must be in his eighties, with steel gray hair, a thrusting jaw, and a trademark vice-like handshake. He changed from hang gliding to paragliding a while ago and, although he no longer flies, he was pleased to see both types flying at Ringstead, including some of the new rigid hang gliders.

Later that year (2006) Flight Lieutenant Prendergast, 85, died following a short illness at his home in Dorset. He was cremated in a coffin made using cardboard from his own garage by his family in (roughly) the shape of his Hawker Hurricane fighter and painted in the camouflage and RAF markings of the period.

Related

Saving Major Tom, my review of the 1967 James Bond movie You Only Live Twice, the screenwriter for which was noted children’s author Roald Dahl, who was also a Hurricane pilot during World War 2. (In addition, the film features WW2 bomber pilot Ken Wallis flying a gyroplane of his own design and construction.)

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