Tom Hardy's Dunkirk hero based on a real life Kiwi

Tom Hardy, Warner Brothers
Tom Hardy in Dunkirk. Photo credit: Warner Brothers

Warning: This article contains spoilers

The latest Hollywood blockbuster, Dunkirk, depicts mass troop evacuations on the beaches of France and Belgium during World War II as German forces closed in.

Alan Deere, NZ History
Alan Deere was known as a reluctant hero. Photo credit: NZ History

Turns out one of the main characters closely resembles that of Auckland-born New Zealand fighter ace Alan Deere.

According to History vs Hollywood, one of the movie's Spitfire pilots named Farrier, played by British actor Tom Hardy, echoes similarities between his role in the movie and the Kiwi pilot.

"In researching the Dunkirk true story, we discovered that while the character Farrier is not directly based on an actual person [however] his experience most closely resembles that of Alan Christopher "Al" Deere," the website claims.

"Deere's plane was hit in the cooling system by the rear gunner of a German Dornier, and like Tom Hardy's character in the movie, Deere crash-landed on the beach. He landed wheels up on the water's edge and gashed his eyebrow in the process."

Alan Deere, War
Deere pictured third from left. Photo credit: NZ History

Deere finished the war as one of New Zealand's most successful fighter pilots and is credited with shooting down 22 German aircraft, and another 10 'probable' kills.

During one of his fights he was attacked by five German aircraft before crash landing.

In a New Zealand History biography, he described how he struggled to escape from his burning aircraft.

"Bullets seemed to come from everywhere and pieces flew off my aircraft. Never did it take so long to cross the Channel. Then my Spitfire burst into flames, so I undid my straps and eased the stick back to gain height before bailing out. Turned my machine on its back and pushed the stick hard forward. I shot out a few feet but somehow became caught up," he wrote.

"Although I twisted and turned I could not free myself. The nose of my aircraft had now dropped and was pointing at the ground which was rushing up at an alarming rate. Then suddenly I was blown along the side of the fuselage and was clear. A hurried snatch at the rip cord and, with a jolt, the parachute opened."

Deere crashed nine times during his military career and lived to tell the tale, writing a memoir called Nine Lives.

Following the war he was awarded an Order of the British Empire for his efforts and following his death at the age of 77, his ashes were scattered over the River Thames in London, fittingly, from a Spitfire aircraft.


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