Two RAF Hawker Hurricane MK1 fighters from RAF 79 Squadron taking off from RAF Hawkinge, Kent during the Battle of Britain 200740 CREDIT PA.jpg
WWII

Battle of Britain: Last Of 'The Few' Praises Those Who Helped Defeat Germany

Around 3,000 Royal Air Force aircrew fought during the three-and-a-half month campaign 80 years ago, with 544 aviators losing their lives.

Two RAF Hawker Hurricane MK1 fighters from RAF 79 Squadron taking off from RAF Hawkinge, Kent during the Battle of Britain 200740 CREDIT PA.jpg

The last surviving member of "The Few" has praised the "true professionals" who helped defeat Germany in 1940.

Group Captain John "Paddy" Hemingway is now 101 years old and, having survived multiple dog fights during the war, regards himself as a "lucky Irishman".

Gp Capt Hemingway, born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1919, was granted RAF short service commission on 7 March 1939 and was posted to 85 Squadron in Debden, Essex.

He stayed with them during the Battle of Britain, flying Hurricanes.

"There is no doubt in my mind we should applaud all those who fought during those difficult months, not just the pilots," he said.

"The RAF was the most sophisticated air force in the world at that time, and we would not have prevailed unless everyone were true professionals and played their part."

During the war, he severely damaged or destroyed seven enemy aircraft, as well as being shot down several times.

In April 1941, he was mentioned in dispatches and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in July of the same year.

An aerial battle over London at 9am on the morning of 6th September 1940 during Battle of Britain 060940 CREDIT PA.jpg
An aerial battle over London during the Battle of Britain (Picture: PA).

In 1942, Gp Cpt Hemingway spent time at an offensive radar station, but returned to operational duties in 1945 to take command of a Spitfire squadron in Italy.

After the war, he stayed in the RAF before retiring in 1969 as a Group Captain.

He lives in Wicklow, Ireland, where he recently celebrated his 101st birthday.

The veteran said he feels "privileged to have met so many amazing young men and pilots" throughout his life.

Cover image: Two Hurricanes take off during the Battle of Britain (Picture: PA).