The ‘Hero of Hartlepool’ who was the 'first James Bond'

A new painting celebrates the bravery of “The Hero of Hartlepool” who was later “classified as the first James Bond”.

By Pamela Bilalova
Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 12:00 am
Kennith Schadtler-Law's crash landing became the subject of the painting./Photo: Captain Victor Law OBE
Kennith Schadtler-Law's crash landing became the subject of the painting./Photo: Captain Victor Law OBE

Denis Fox’s painting The Hero of Hartlepool and the story behind it proved to be “very popular” during the artist’s recent exhibition at Durham Town Hall.

The painting depicts RAF pilot Kennith Schadtler-Law’s crash landing on Hartlepool Golf Course on August 15, 1940, during the Battle of Britain.

Denis, 77, who is still researching Kennith’s story, said: "When people were looking at the painting and they were seeing the story, I think one or two people were moved to tears.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Denis Fox's painting "The Hero of Hartlepool".

"People wanted to know more about this particular person and that’s why I want to do this further research into it.”

The former arts teacher, who was commissioned to create the painting by Kennith’s nephew, Captain Victor Law, managed to piece together the moments before the crash landing near Hartlepool.

It was towards the end of the battle when Kennith spotted enemy aircraft jettisoning bombs on the outskirts of Hartlepool and Easington Colliery.

He was able to shot one bomber and damage two others.

Denis Fox (right) with Air Chief Marshal of the RAF Sir Stephen John Hillier, GCB, CBE, DFC, ADC in February 2019./Photo: James Anthony Cowan

But his Hurricane was then damaged by machine gun fire.

Denis, from Seaham, explained: “He had to land quickly as his aircraft was losing height so he spotted a golf course and made plans for a crash landing and as he was about to land he did not see a wire fence which caught his landing wheels and acted as an arrester, which probably saved his life.

"This violent action caused his aircraft to turn on its back where Kennith suffered severe concussion and he was in a dangerous situation hanging upside down strapped in his harness with fuel dripping out of the aircraft.”

Kennith also suffered a broken back and was taken to Hartlepool Hospital after he was rescued by farm labourers and soldiers.

A group of women, led by a Bessie Allen, visited him and were so impressed by his courage that they launched the Hartlepool Fighter Fund to help fund a replacement aircraft for the RAF.

Following the war, the pilot, who was fluent in German, French and Russian, became a translator in the Nuremberg Trials of war criminals and joined the Foreign Office in 1948.

While working there, he led an espionage team into the former East Germany and rescued German atomic scientists before becoming a member of MI5.

Denis added: "He’s classified as the first James Bond, if you want to put it that way. If you think about James Bond, there’s a link.”

Read More

Read More
Licence to Phil - Hartlepool James Bond fan to attend No Time To Die worldwide p...

Following the success of the exhibition in Durham, Denis hopes to be able to showcase his work in Hartlepool as well.

The artist, who started the work as a promise to his late uncle, Ken Bell, from Dawdon, who was in the RAF and taught him how to draw Hurricanes, said: "Quite a lot of people who came to my exhibition didn’t realise that this took place in the North East.

"They thought the Battle of Britain was all connected with the South East of England.”

Denis, who retired from teaching art at Emmanuel College in Gateshead in 2011, added: "I do feel that these people need to be honoured. Their stories need to be seen.”

Support your Mail and become a subscriber today.

Enjoy unlimited access to all of our news and sport, see fewer ads, experience faster load times, test your brain with daily puzzles and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.

The Hartlepool Mail has been in town since 1877, and your support means we can continue telling your stories for generations to come. Click here to subscribe.