Thomas Falcon Hazell, fighter pilot with the Royal Flying Corps and later the Royal Air Force during World War I, dies in Newport, County Mayo, on September 4, 1946. He scores 43 victories in 1917–18 making him the fifth most successful British “flying ace” of the war, the third most successful Irish-born pilot behind Edward Mannock and George McElroy, and the only pilot to survive the war from both groups.
Hazell is born in Roundstone, County Galway, on August 7, 1892. Upon the outbreak of the war in August 1914, he volunteers for service as a private with the South Irish Horse. On October 10 he is commissioned as second lieutenant in the 7th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. As part of the 49th Brigade in the 16th (Irish) Division, the 7th Inniskillings are initially based at Tipperary, where he is promoted to lieutenant on June 4, 1915. The regiment lands in France in February 1916.
Soon afterwards Hazell transfers to the Royal Flying Corps. In April and May he is assigned to No. 5 Reserve Squadron, based at Castle Bromwich. He is appointed a flying officer on June 5, and survives a severe crash before completing his training. He eventually joins No. 1 Squadron on the Western Front. Flying Nieuport 17 Scouts, he shoots down 20 enemy aircraft between March and August 1917, being appointed a flight commander with the acting rank of captain on May 25, and is awarded the Military Cross on July 26.
After serving as an instructor at the Central Flying School in 1918, Hazell takes command of “A” Flight, No. 24 Squadron, flying the S.E.5a. On August 22, 1918, he shoots down an observation balloon despite its escort of seven Fokker D.VIIs. The escort is led by German ace Ernst Udet, who attacks and riddles Hazell’s petrol tank, propeller, and two longerons with bullets. In spite of this Hazell fights his way back, eyes full of petrol, and lands safely. Udet thinks he has forced the British pilot to crash and actually claims him as his 60th victory. Hazell finishes the war with 43 confirmed kills, the top British surviving ace of the war (excluding Dominion airmen). He is twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. On June 11, 1927, he returns to the RAF Depot at Uxbridge and is placed on the retired list on July 20, 1927 at his own request.
Hazell dies in Newport, County Mayo, on September 4, 1946, and is buried at the Burrishoole Church of Ireland Cemetery there. In 2014 his grave, which had been largely forgotten and neglected, is restored, repaired, and re-dedicated in a ceremony on August 4, 2014, the 100th anniversary of the declaration of World War I