100-year-old only Battle of Britain pilot to attend memorial ceremony

The Few become The One: 100-year-old flying ace is the only Battle of Britain pilot to attend memorial ceremony

  • Paul Farnes, 100, laid a wreath at the monument paying tribute to his comrades
  • He was one of ‘The Few’ who took to the skies for the Battle of Britain in 1940
  • Mr Farnes and his comrades successfully repelled the Luftwaffe in the summer
  • The 100-year-old who lives in Chichester, West Sussex, and will attend the Battle of Britain thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey today

Just one of the last surviving pilots from the Battle of Britain was able to join this year’s remembrance ceremony honouring those who bravely battled Hitler’s Luftwaffe.

Former Hurricane pilot Paul Farnes, was one of ‘The Few’ whose courage helped save the country from Nazi tyranny.

Mr Farnes is one of eight surviving members of the battle that raged above England’s skies in 1940, and for the first time was the only one able to attend the ceremony which took place yesterday.

He approached the monument, at Victoria Embankment in central London, alone and laid a wreath to commemorate his fallen comrades.

The 100-year-old, who celebrated his birthday in July, was one of just under 3,000 men of the RAF Fighter Command took part in the Battle of Britain.

The group of men were dubbed ‘The Few’ following Winston Churchill’s wartime address to Parliament, where he poignantly said of the brave RAF pilots: ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’

One of the last remaining pilots of ‘The Few’ Wing Commander Paul Farnes DFM, now aged 100, laid a wreath remembering his comrades at the Battle of Britain Memorial in central London

Wing Commander Paul C. P. Farnes who turning 100 years old in July (pictured left), Mr Farnes (pictured right) during his time in the RAF

Heroes: Battle of Britain pilots posed for a photo with Prince Charles at Clarence House in London. Left back: Sqn Ldr Tony Iveson, Wg Cdr Dick Summers, Luiz Flower, Wg Cdr Bob Foster, Prince of Wales, Sqn Ldr Wellum, Flt Lt Ronald Smyth, Flt Lt William Walker. Front, Fg Off Ken Wilkinson, Wg Cdr TNeil, Flt Lt Owen Burns, Sqn Ldr Graham Leggett, Wg Cdr Terry Kane, Flt Lt Richard Jones, Sqn Ldr Nigel Rose

An RAF fighter ace, Wing Commander Farnes flew Hurricanes. He joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in April 1938 as an airman pilot under training

Prince Charles and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall unveil the Memorial to the Battle of Britain on the Embankment in London in September 2005

544 men sacrificed their lives and successfully repelled the Luftwaffe in the summer of 1940, turning the tide of World War Two.


They fought the most important battle this country ever faced and their victory saved Britain from the tyranny of Nazi Germany.

The heroes of the Battle of Britain repelled Hitler’s Luftwaffe in the summer of 1940, although only a few of them are still alive.

They are:

  • Flight Lieutenant William Clark, 219 Squadron, aged 99
  • Wing Commander John Elkington, 1 Squadron, aged 97 
  • Wing Commander Paul Farnes, 501 Squadron, aged 100
  • Squadron Leader John Hart, 602 Squadron, aged 99 
  • Flying Officer John Hemmingway, 86 Squadron, aged 99
  • Flight Lieutenant William Hughes, 23 Squadron, aged 97 
  • Pilot Officer Archie McInnes, 601 Squadron, 105 
  • Flight Lieutenant Maurice Moundson, 56 Squadron, aged 100

At the time were in their late teens or early 20s when they took to the skies in Spitfires and Hurricanes from July to October 1940. 

Others flew in Blenheims, Beaufighters and Defiants, becoming the ‘aces’ of the Battle, shooting down plane after plane. 

When it was over, 544 RAF pilots and aircrew were dead and had made the ultimate sacrifice to keep generations of Britons safe.

‘I was very proud to be in the Battle of Britain and this brings it all back,’ Mr Farnes told The Times  

Wing Commander Tom Neil, 97, and Squadron Leader Geoffrey Wellum, 96, died in July and Flight Lieutenant Ronald Mackay, 101, passed away last month.

He added: ‘We have lost several pilots in the last year,’

‘I’m not the only one [still alive] but I am nearly the only one.’

The pilot joined the No. 501 Squadron in September 1939 and first fought in the Battle of France.

During that battle he destroyed one aircraft, possibly destroyed another and shared two with fellow comrades.

In the Battle of Britain got six destroyed, one probably destroyed and six damaged.

He served as an instructor and fought in Malta with No. 229 Squadron, he also served in north Africa and Iraq.

The 100-year-old remained in the RAF until 1958, and retired with the rank wing commander.

The service was conducted by Ray Pentland, former Chaplain-in-Chief of the RAF, Hon Chaplain of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association and Chaplain of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots.

Cpl Carpenter of the RAF Music played the Last Post and Reveille. 

Mr Farnes who lives in Chichester, West Sussex, will attend the Battle of Britain thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey today.

Only last month one of the last surviving Battle of Britain veterans died aged 101.

Tributes poured in for Flight Lieutenant Ronald Mackay, who flew Spitfires with No 234 Squadron and helped protect Britain’s skies from German bombers during the Second World War.

Flt Lt Mackay, who was once seriously injured baling out of his aircraft following a sortie, was one of the final nine remaining members of ‘The Few’, after the deaths of two fellow survivors in July.

At the time David Brocklehurst MBE, chairman of the Kent Battle of Britain Museum, said: ‘Our thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends at this difficult time.

Iconic: Spitfires from No. 610 Squadron, based at Biggin Hill, Kent, fly over South East England

Mr Farnes joined the No. 501 Squadron in September 1939 and first fought in the Battle of France. During that battle he destroyed one aircraft, possibly destroyed another and shared two with fellow comrades

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‘Our flag will be flown at half mast for the next seven days as a mark of respect.

‘Sadly nature is taking its course and we have lost three of The Few in the past month.

‘Now there are only eight surviving Battle of Britain veterans, the oldest is 105 and the youngest 98.

‘He should be remembered for his bravery. Many of them said they were not heroes, just doing their duty, but we see them all as heroes.

‘It makes it all the more important that we carry on their legacy as there will be a time when they will no longer be able to do so.’

Never was so much owed by so many to so few: Churchill’s enduring tribute to the Battle of Britain heroes 

Former PM Winston Churchill

The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and b~ their devotion. 

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. 

All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day; but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with deliberate careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power. 

On no part of the Royal Air Force does the weight of the war fall more heavily than on the daylight bombers, who will play an invaluable part in the case of invasion and whose unflinching zeal it has been necessary in the meanwhile on numerous occasions to restrain.


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