Squadron Leader John Hall
(Filed: 06/02/2004)

Squadron Leader John Hall, who has died aged 82, prospered during 50 years at the Bar, having previously come to prominence for destroying two German bombers attacking London on the night of January 21/22 1944.

He and his navigator Jock Cairns had been scrambled in their Mosquito from Bradwell Bay, in Essex, to meet a stream of bombers heading for London. After Cairns had gained contact using the airborne interception radar, Hall shot down a Dornier bomber over the sea.

Another enemy aircraft was seen trapped in searchlights, and Hall closed up to 200 yards before shooting down a Junkers 88. This double success was the first achieved by their squadron, No 488 of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and was the only double success of the night.

On landing, Hall and Cairns were whisked off to London to meet the press, and the Sunday papers spread their photographs and details of their triumph across their front pages, dubbing the pair "the Fighting Tigers"; after a good night, they were welcomed back by their Kiwi comrades and teased with offerings of raw meat.

John Anthony Sanderson Hall was born in Oxford on Christmas Day 1921. His father was William Glenvil Hall, MP for Colne Valley and Financial Secretary to the Treasury in Attlee's government. From his father, a life-long Quaker, John inherited a belief in practical action rather than ideology, along with a sense of decency and respect for the rights of individuals.

He attended the Quaker co-educational Leighton Park School, Reading, then worked briefly as a publisher's reader and studied at the Sorbonne before returning to this country and joining the RAF at the height of the Battle of Britain.

After training as a night-fighter pilot, Hall joined No 85 Squadron, which had just been re-equipped with the American Douglas Havoc; this was a less than successful aircraft for night fighting and the squadron achieved few successes.

After excelling on an air gunnery course at the Central Gunnery School, Hall became an instructor at No 51 Operational Training Unit. He became an ardent believer in the need for fighter pilots to understand fully the basics of air-to-air shooting, something that he felt most of them lacked. He likened the problem to shooting game birds when an estimate of "range, line and deflection" held the key to success.

Hall joined the New Zealanders of No 488 in November 1943, and was crewed up with Cairns, an experienced radar operator. Two months after their initial success, Hall and Cairns were on a routine patrol over Essex when they were directed to a contact flying at 18,000ft.

They identified a Junkers 88, which they shot down and saw crash with a tremendous explosion. The enemy aircraft had landed on a group of dispersed bombers on the USAAF airfield at Earls Colne, severely damaging a number of them. Hall was doubtful about claiming this as a kill.

He shot down another bomber off the Essex coast on April 19 1944. As he approached to land, he was told to wait until another Mosquito had landed ahead of him. In the event, the other "Mosquito" turned out to be a Junkers 88; the crew claimed they thought they were landing in Holland.

After shooting down their fifth German bomber, as it attacked Bristol on May 22, both Hall and Cairns were awarded the DFC. Hall's citation described him as "a highly efficient and courageous fighter". On the night before D-Day, Hall flew one of the many night fighters that patrolled over the beachhead keeping German bombers away from the invasion fleet.

By mid-August, the crews of No 488 had destroyed 49 enemy aircraft. The sum of 50 had been accrued at various fund-raising events, and it was agreed that this should go to the ground crew of the aircraft achieving the squadron's 50th success.

During the night of August 14/15, Hall attacked a German bomber, but it escaped. Shortly afterwards a second bomber was attacked and Hall succeeded in shooting it down 20 miles south of Caen, much to the delight of his ground crew.

After moving to an advanced airfield in France, further success came on the night of December 23/24. Two days later, however, Hall had a narrow escape. Flying in atrocious weather in an attempt to support Allied troops under attack during the German's lightning Ardennes offensive, he was prevented by blizzards from returning to his base at Amiens.

With virtually no fuel, he saw a light and crash-landed on a US forward grass airstrip and the Mosquito was wrecked. Hall scored his last kill on March 27 1945. He pressed home his attack from such close range that his Mosquito was hit by debris from the enemy bomber. The port engine was damaged and subsequently caught fire, but Hall managed to crash land on an airfield in Holland; his aircraft was almost completely burnt out.

A few days later, he and Cairns each received a Bar to their DFCs. After leaving the RAF at the end of 1946, Hall went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, to read Law. He was called to the Bar by Inner Temple in November 1948, and joined chambers at Lamb Building.

With a young family to support, he initially spent his evenings libel reading at the Mirror, but he eventually built a successful common law and commercial practice in London and on the Western Circuit. He took Silk in 1967.

Shortly afterwards, Hall became head of chambers. He was Deputy Chairman of Hampshire Quarter Sessions from 1967; Recorder of Swindon from 1971; and Recorder of the Crown Court until 1978. He was active within the Inner Temple, becoming a Bencher in 1975.

He served on the Bar Council, the Senate of the Four Inns of Court and the Bar, the Council of Legal Education and as UK delegate to the Consultative Committees of the Bars and Law Societies of the EEC. He was also a partner in a legal practice in Paris.

Generous of spirit, Hall took great interest in the development of young people, and was a trustee of the Ross McWhirter Foundation, giving awards to those who have shown outstanding courage. Instructed by the Freedom Association to act for workers who objected to the trades union closed shop, he was successful in having the practice declared unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights.

He was a trustee of the Dicey Conference, providing a forum for talented sixth formers, and as recently as last year chaired that conference on the theme of the rule of law. From 1967 until 1988 he served as a governor of St Catherine's School, Bramley, where he gave energetic support for its development, including a wing known as Hall House.

On his retirement as a governor he was praised for his "capacity to understand what people meant despite what they say". In 1979 he left the Bar. He served as a member of the Foreign Compensation Commission from 1983 to 1991. He returned to the Bar as an arbitrator in the new field of financial services; he was a founder and director of the City Disputes Panel, and chairman of the Securities and Futures Panel of Arbitrators.

Hall was an avid reader of history, an excellent shot and an accomplished fly fisherman

John Hall died on January 5. He married first, in 1945, Lola Crowe, with whom he had a son and two daughters. The marriage was dissolved in 1974, and in 1976 he married Elizabeth Maynard, the widow of his best friend Alan Maynard.