Wing Commander Farnes
Veterans

'An Extraordinary Man': 'The Few' WWII Fighter Ace Paul Farnes Dies Aged 101

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for his efforts during the Battle of Britain.

Wing Commander Farnes

One of the last surviving members of 'The Few' – personnel who defended the country in the Battle of Britain during World War Two – has died aged 101.

According to the Battle of Britain Memorial, Wing Commander Paul Farnes claimed a tally of six aircraft destroyed during the battle, with one likely destroyed and six damaged.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for his efforts and is believed to be the last surviving fighter pilot ace - an airman who shoots down five or more aircraft - who fought against the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain.

He died peacefully at his home in Hampshire on Tuesday.

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

The group are remembered as 'The Few', after a speech by then-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."

There are now thought to be only two surviving members of The Few – Flight Lieutenant William Clark and Flying Officer John Hemingway, both aged 100.

The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, described Wg Cdr Farnes as an "extraordinary man" and "one of a band of exceptionally brave aviators to whom we owe our freedom today".

Past and present RAF personnel Battle of Britain service at Westminster Abbey
Wg Cdr Farnes was described as a "tall, distinguished man" by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust.

In 2015, Wg 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.

"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," he said at the time.

"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.

"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.

Wg Cdr Farnes joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1938, before spending time with the regulars from July the following year.

He then converted to Hurricanes, joining No 501 Squadron and later moving with them to France in May 1940.

Wg Cdr Farnes also served in Malta, north Africa and Iraq, commanding two squadrons in the UK as the war finished.

He retired from the RAF in 1958 as a squadron leader, retaining the rank of wing commander.

Cover image: Prince Charles speaking with Wg Cdr Farnes in 2017 (Picture: PA).