Phillip Melville Cardell, 1917-1940
Great Paxtonians

A series of articles about people who have lived in Great Paxton or have a connection with the village.


Phillip “Pip” Cardell was born at Manor Farm, Great Paxton (the farm behind the church). His family had moved from Cornwall to Great Paxton in the 1890’s to farm here, it was a role and way of life that he had grown into before war broke out.

Pip joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in May 1939 as an Airman Pilot aged 21. He could have stayed in Great Paxton and worked on the land during the war but instead chose to remain with the air force when war broke out, being called up on the 1st of September 1939. He was initially sent to Scotland for flying training before being posted to 263 Squadron at Drem, East Lothian on the 23rd of August 1940, a few days later he went to 603 Squadron at Dyce, Aberdeen. The squadron then went south to Hornchurch (East London) in late August to fly Spitfires in the Battle of Britain (July 10th – 31st October 1940).

On September the 27th, 300 enemy planes were heading across the Channel to the south of England, it was one of the most intense days of the conflict. Pip’s squadron was scrambled and was shortly in combat with two enemy fighters, he was seen by his friend Pilot Officer Peter Dexter who joined the combat, between them they shot both of the enemy planes down.

On the way back home, they were set upon by five enemy fighters, they managed to get away though Pip’s Spitfire had been hit, Dexter saw he was in trouble. Pip bailed out a quarter of a mile out from Folkstone at 300 feet, too low for his parachute to open, he fell into the sea and surfaced. Dexter flew around trying to attract attention including going to shore and back out to show anyone on the ground that help was needed. As no help was forthcoming, Dexter made a forced landing on the beach and commandeered a boat to go out to save Pip. It had been 35 minutes since he bailed out and it was too late, the rescue had become a recovery.

Phillip Cardell is buried in the corner of Great Paxton churchyard.


Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

  – Winston Churchill.

Pilot Officer service number 80818.
603 Squadron R.A.F. Hornchurch, East London.
Spitfire Mk. 1 N3244.

There were 2 938 Battle of Britain pilots, their average age was 20.

There were 24 pilots in 603 Squadron, only 8 would survive the Battle of Britain.

Christmas 1939 with family outside Manor Farm, Phillip is second left, far left is his younger brother Edmund known as “Ted”, also in the RAF.

1939 outside Manor Farm, Phillip left, Edmund / “Ted” right.

The memorial in the corner of Great Paxton graveyard. The central feature is a stand of brick and tile topped with a sundial made for Manor Farm by Phillip when on leave from the RAF, possibly over the weekend before he was killed.

1928, Phillip standing far right with family members, aged 10 or 11.

The blue plaque on the wall of Manor farm House.

A local newspaper story from 1940 about the loss of Philip Cardell.


Thanks to Suzy Cardell and the Tally Ho Project for pictures and information.