b. 01/03/1909 Thurgoland, Yorkshire. d. 12/02/1942 English Channel
Esmonde was born on 1 March 1909 in Thurgoland, near Barnsley, Yorkshire where his father Dr John Joseph Esmonde (1862–1915) was in temporary General Practice. Though by birth English, his parents were from Ireland and he returned to his family's ancestral home of the Esmonde Baronets in Drominagh, North Tipperary as a boy and was educated by the Jesuits, first at Wimbledon College in London and then at Clongowes Wood College in co. Kildare, Ireland.
He had three elder half-brothers from his father's first marriage, Sir John Esmonde, 14th Baronet, who served in the First World War, 2nd Lt. Geoffrey Esmonde (1897–1916) who was killed in action in the First World War serving with the 26th Tyneside Irish Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers, and Sir Anthony Esmonde, 15th Baronet.
Esmonde was commissioned into the Royal Air Force as a pilot officer on probation on 28 December 1928. During the early 1930s, Esmonde served first in the Royal Air Force, and then transferred to the Fleet Air Arm where he served in the Mediterranean when responsibility for naval aviation was returned to the Royal Navy. Upon leaving the armed forces, he flew for Imperial Airways.
Lieutenant-Commander Esmonde knew well that his enterprise was desperate. Soon after noon he and his squadron of six Swordfish set course for the Enemy, and after ten minutes flight were attacked by a strong force of Enemy fighters. Touch was lost with his fighter escort; and in the action which followed all his aircraft were damaged. He flew on, cool and resolute, serenely challenging hopeless odds, to encounter the deadly fire of the Battle-Cruisers and their Escort, which shattered the port wing of his aircraft. Undismayed, he led his Squadron on, straight through this inferno of fire, in steady flight towards their target. Almost at once he was shot down; but his Squadron went on to launch a gallant attack, in which at least one torpedo is believed to have struck the German Battle-Cruisers, and from which not one of the six aircraft returned. His high courage and splendid resolution will live in the traditions of the Royal Navy, and remain for many generations a fine and stirring memory.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM.
BURIAL PLACE: WOODLANDS CEMETERY, GILLINGHAM, KENT.
Eugene Esmonde's medals including VC and DSO on display at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (August 2014).
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier SECTION A, RC PLOT, GRAVE 187
Thurgoland War Memorial, Barnsley