Alexander Hugh Ormonde Butler was born 29th September
1920 at Coimbatore, India. He was the only child of Lieutenant-Colonel
Alexander Hazelwood Butler (44th Merwara Infantry) and his wife
Sakunthala Narasiah. Colonel Butler retired from the Army 1921 but the
family remained in India until June 1927, when they moved to London.
Colonel Butler died 1933.
Alexander was educated at Wellington
College 1934-38. On leaving he applied to R.A.F. Cranwell to become a
pilot. But he was turned down for not being ‘of pure European descent’.
Devestated at this rejection, he took a job in the City. But his thirst
for adventure lingered and would find an unexpected outlet.
When the Soviet Union attacked Finland in the Winter of 1939 the League
of Nations authorised its members to give what aid they could to the
Finns. British volunteers began to contact the Finnish Legation in
London offering to fight for Finland. The British Government, for the
only time in history, issued a warrant allowing a foreign nation to
enlist British citizens into their army. The Finnish Aid Bureau was
given responsibility for recruitment and a committe of retired British
officers established to interview volunteers.
Alexander applied and on 8th March 1940 he became Volunteer No. 973. He took an oath to the
Finnish Government and signed
the Agreement of Service, which stated that he would serve in the
British Contingent of the International Volunteer Force in Finland. The
next day he left London with the draft of 145 men under Captain D.H.
Blew-Jones. He boarded the ss Meteor at Leith, Scotland on 10th March
travelled to Sweden via Bergen and Oslo. On 18th March 1940 the draft
crossed the Finnish border at Tornio and arrived in Lapua on 20th
May 1940 the Volunteer Contingent was officially disbanded. 19th June
volunteers moved to Jyväskylä and 7th September to
October 1940 Butler left with 5 other members for the British Legation,
Helsinki. There he is believed to have obtained work as a language
teacher. On 28th March 1941 he was living in Luotsikatu, Helsinki.
June 1941 Butler returned to Korpilahti and 2 days later he went to
Iloniemi where they helped make wooden sections for army huts.
1941 the volunteers left Finland, moving by train to Malung in Sweden.
22nd April 1942 Butler took off from Bromma airport, Stockholm on the
diplomatic plane for Leuchars in Fife, Scotland.
Britain, Butler again applied to join the Royal Air Force. This time he
was successful and after completing flying training he was posted as a
Sergeant to 137 Squadron. Later he was promoted to Pilot Officer.
Interestingly, a picture of Butler in his R.A.F. uniform shows him
wearing the Winter War Medal ribbon. At the time of the photograph
Britain was officially at war with Finland! 20th September 1944 he was
killed when his Typhoon exploded while returning from a mission over
the Arnhem area:
Squadron Log: “Sgt. Butler (INDIA) did not
return to base, his a/c being seen to burst into flames and crash on
the way out.” In the appendix was a note: “We lost a good pilot in Sgt.
Butler. His a/c blew up in mid-air. We shall miss Hugh Butler.”
He was buried at Leopoldsburg War Cemetery, Limburg, Belgium. His
gravestone bears the inscription:
ROYAL AIR FORCE
20TH SEPTEMBER 1944 AGE 23
ONLY CHILD OF MRS S BUTLER AND LATE LT COL A.H.
OF HAZELWOOD COIMBATORE S INDIA
THY WILL BE DONE
medals were sent to his mother. She had also served, as an Air Raid
Patrol Warden in London. She lived at the same address until her death
on 7 July 1960.