Last Battle of Britain flying ace dies aged 101

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Paul Farnes, left, and in 1940 (left to right): Fighter pilots Stefan Witorzenc, George Stoney, Antoni Głowacki and sitting Bob Dafforn, Paul Farnes, Kenneth “Hawkeye” Lee, John Gibson and Hugh Adams of No 501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force (Getty)

One of the last surviving members of The Few – pilots who fought against the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain during the Second World War – has died at the age of 101.

Wing Commander Paul Farnes was among the 3,000 airmen who defended the skies against the Nazis above southern England for three-and-a-half months in 1940.

He died peacefully at his home in Hampshire on Tuesday morning, the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust said.

The trust said W/Cdr Farnes was a big fan of the Battle of Britain Memorial, near Folkestone, and was the last member of The Few who was fit enough to be able to attend the aerial conflict's memorial day last year.

The group are remembered as The Few, after a speech by prime minister Winston Churchill, who said of their sacrifices: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

The trust said W/Cdr Farnes had "proudly" represented his RAF colleagues at the service of commemoration just a week before his 101st birthday in July.

The Prince of Wales talking to Battle of Britain veteran Wing Commander Paul Farnes (PA)
The Queen meets Mrs K Foster, Wing Commander Paul Farnes and Squadron Leader Tom Pickering as she visits the National Memorial to the Few (Getty)

In a tribute, the trust said: ”A tall, distinguished man with striking silver grey hair that he retained throughout his life, Paul Farnes was known for plain speaking but was generous with his time in support of trust activities.”

In an article on its website, the trust said W/Cdr Farnes was "very proud" of his Distinguished Flying Medal which he received for his exploits in the Battle of Britain.

His tally was six enemy aircraft destroyed, one probably destroyed and six damaged, the trust added - making him an ‘ace’, and the last surviving member of The Few to hold the title.

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In 2015, W/Cdr Farnes described the "moving" moment he and his comrades were spontaneously applauded during a service at Westminster Abbey to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Mr Farnes, who flew a Hurricane during the war, said: "It was very emotional today because, when we walked out of the Abbey, the audience applauded and it's never happened before at the annual service and I was very moved by it.

"It is amazing that the Battle of Britain has caught on with the public and I am very proud to have been a part of it.

Battle of Britain veterans Wing Commander Tom Neil, Squadron Leader Geoffrey Wellum, Wing Commander Tim Elkington and Wing Commander Paul Farnes watch a Battle of Britain flypast (Getty)
Two RAF Hawker Hurricane MK1 fighters from RAF 79 Squadron taking off from RAF Hawkinge, Kent during the Battle of Britain (PA)

"I didn't at the time, but latterly and gradually I came to realise the importance of the Battle of Britain.”

The Battle of Britain claimed the lives of 544 RAF pilots and air crew.

Mr Farnes joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) Volunteer Reserve in 1938, later joining RAF No 501 Squadron and fighting in the Battle of France in 1940.

After the Battle of Britain, he was commissioned as an officer and served as an instructor and fought in Malta with No 229 Squadron as well as serving in North Africa and Iraq.

Mr Farnes (bottom row, third from right) poses in a group photo during a pre-lunch reception at the RAF Club to commemorate the 75th Anniversary Of The Battle Of Britain (Getty)

As the Second World War ended, he was in command of two squadrons in the UK.

Remaining in the RAF until 1958, he retired as a Squadron Leader, retaining the rank of Wing Commander.

He is survived by a daughter, Linda, and son, Jonathan. Another son, Nicholas, died in 1954.

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