Squadron Leader James Chilton Francis Hayter DFC and bar
New Zealander – Pilot 103 Sq – Battle of Britain Fighter Pilot – Fighter Ace.
Born in Timaru on 18 Oct 1917, Jim Hayter attended Nelson College from 1928 to 1934. Working on farms and sheep stations, he took flying lessons with the Marlborough Aero Club as money and time allowed.
In 1938 he joined the RNZAF and began his flying training at Wigram. Having completed his wings course in June 1939, Hayter sailed for the United Kingdom in July to join 98 Squadron, a light bomber unit equipped with Fairey Battles.
In Nov 1939 Hayter was posted to 103 Sq in France, initially flying Battles on reconnaissance. Two days after the beginning of the German Blitzkrieg on 10 May 1940, Hayter found himself piloting one of three Battles sent to attack river bridges and roads near Sedan. After shaking off some attacking Bf 110s, the three aircraft flew along the River Meuse in line astern to attack a German pontoon bridge with their gunners firing at enemy troops along the banks. The successful bombing of the bridge held up the advance of German tanks for some hours.
Hayter’s air gunner, LAC Ron Critchley, probably destroyed an Hs 126 observation aircraft about this time. He was shot down on 16 June 1940 by a Bf 109 as he was about to land and later on the same day the unit was withdrawn to England.
In early Sept Hayter volunteered for Fighter Command and initially joined 615 Sq, moving two weeks later to 605 Sq. During Oct 1940 he damaged a Ju 88 and two Bf 109’s. On the 26th he was attacked at 25000 feet and his Hurricane set on fire. Slightly wounded, Hayter baled out and landed in the grounds of a house where a cocktail party was taking place. He was invited to join it and was later picked up by his fiancee, who lived not far away.
Hayter destroyed a Bf 109 on 1 Dec over Canterbury. In early May 1941 he finished his tour and was posted away as an instructor but two months later returned to operations, joining 611 Sq. Hayter destroyed a Bf 109 on July 10, was awarded the DFC in October and was posted to the Middle East to join 33 Sq in Egypt in May 1942. During June he was shot down by a Macchi 202. As he was considering his crash-landing the enemy pilot shot past and Hayter fired a short burst, causing the Italian pilot to crash-land close to his victim. The two pilots shared a bottle of whisky with nearby Australian troops.
In early July 1942 Hayter took command of 274 Sq in the Western Desert. On the 10th he shot down a Bf 109 and probably a Macchi 202, before being posted to Turkey at the end of September to train Turkish pilots on Hurricanes and Kittyhawks.
His next posting, in March 1943, was to Iran to take command of 74 Sq. The unit moved to Egypt to fly convoy patrols and carry out offensive sweeps against Crete. In September Hayter led nine of his Spitfires to an airfield on Kos Island in the Dodecanese. When the Germans invaded Kos on 3 Oct 1943 the airfield was overrun and Hayter and four others took to the hills. They evaded German troops and eventually rejoined their Squadron in Egypt in late Oct.
The Squadron returned to Britain in April 1944 and were re-equipped with Spitfire IXs to carry out bomber-escorts, sweeps, bombing and strafing attacks against enemy troops and transport and patrols against V-1 flying bombs and their launching sites.
On July 19 1944 the Squadron went to a base in France, gradually moving forward from airfield to airfield as the Army advanced. Hayter was posted in Dec and was awarded a Bar to the DFC in Jan 1945. He ended the war with nine victories
In Sept 1945 he left the Air Force and returned to New Zealand to resume farming. He passed away at Takaka on 3rd October 2006.