Colin Hodgkinson, born in Wells, Somerset, was accepted in 1938 for pilot training as a midshipman in the Fleet Air Arm. During his training, his aircraft was involved in a mid-air collision; grievously injured, Hodgkinson had to have both his legs amputated.
During the long period in hospital, Sir Archibald McIndoe operated on one of his eye sockets and Hodgkinson was subsequently accepted into the Guinea Pig Club. Inspired by Douglas Bader, he was determined to return to flying and to fly the Spitfire and managed to obtain a transfer from the Royal Navy to the RAF as a Pilot Officer.
After training on Spitfires, Hodgkinson was posted on 7 December 1942 to No 131 Squadron at Westhampnett, Sussex. When his squadron left, he obtained permission to remain in the Tangmere Wing and joined No 610 Squadron (OC ‘Johnnie’ Johnson). In April 1943 he shot down a Fw 190 that crashed into the sea off Brighton Pier. Hodgkinson was later posted to No 611 Squadron at Biggin Hill, equipped with Spifire Mk IXs. In August, when flying from Coltishall, Norfolk, Hodgkinson was escorting American B-26 Marauders bombing Bernay airfield when his squadron came under attack by more than fifty Fw 190s. The Wing turned for home and the in the furious dog-fighting that followed, he shot down a Fw 190 that was about to attack his wing leader, ‘Laddie’ Lucas. Hodgkinson then joined No 501 Squadron as a flight commander but in November 1943, during a high altitude weather reconnaissance detail, his oxygen supply failed, and he crashed into a French field. Badly injured and minus one of his metal legs, he was dragged from his blazing Spitfire by two farm workers. Captured and placed in a PoW camp, he was repatriated ten months later. After returning to Britain he was again treated for his injuries by McIndoe. He resumed flying towards the end of the war as a ferry pilot based at Bristol Filton aerodrome. He was released from the RAF in 1946 but returned to military flying three years later flying de Havilland Vampires with Nos 501 and 604 Royal Auxiliary Air Force squadrons until the early 1950s.
Colin ‘Hoppy’ Hodgkinson, Guinea Pig Club member and the ‘other’ Douglas Bader, died on 13 September 1996.
AN EXHIBITION ON COLIN ‘HOPPY’ HODGKINSON –THE OTHER DOUGLAS BADER AND THE GUINEA PIG CLUB IS DISPLAYED IN THE MUSEUM’S MIDDLE HALL