Battle of Britain veteran, 99, attends anniversary of memorial unveiling

One of the last surviving Battle of Britain veterans has described his wartime bravery as "just another day's work" as he prepares to raise a glass of whisky to mark his 100th birthday.

Sunday, 1st July 2018, 6:16 pm
Updated Monday, 16th July 2018, 5:02 pm
One of the last surviving Battle of Britain veterans, Wing Commander Paul Farnes, who has described his wartime bravery as just another days work as he prepares to raise a glass of whisky to mark his 100th birthday

Wing Commander Paul Farnes was speaking as he attended a ceremony to honour the 25th anniversary of the unveiling of the Battle of Britain memorial in Capel-le-Ferne, Kent, on Sunday.

He was a special guest alongside Prince Michael of Kent, a patron of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust.

The annual event also marks the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force.

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People after a ceremony to honour the 25th anniversary of the unveiling of the Battle of Britain memorial in Capel-le-Ferne, Kent

Described as the first major military campaign fought entirely by air forces, which turned the tide of the Second World War, the Battle of Britain took place between July 10 and October 31, 1940.

Just under 3,000 men of the RAF Fighter Command - known by Sir Winston Churchill as "the few" - took to the skies.

More than 500 died and nearly 800 more did not live to see the end of the war in 1945.

There are thought to be fewer than 10 veterans still alive.

Wing Commander Farnes, of Chichester, West Sussex, said it was important to mark the anniversaries, but said: "For us it was just another job to do.

"Many despised the Battle of Britain but it served its purpose at the time.

"We wouldn't be free today without it.

"It would be nice to see old friends but there are only a few of us left. I've been very lucky."

Born in Boscombe, Hampshire, in 1918, Mr Farnes joined the RAF Voluntary Reserve in 1938 before moving to the regular RAF.

He later joined the 501 squadron and went to France on May 10, 1940, first taking part in the Battle of France where he shot down at least one enemy aircraft and is thought to have contributed to the destruction of three others.

He is one of the few aces of the Battle of Britain - meaning it was confirmed he had shot down five enemy aircraft.

While holding the rank of sergeant he destroyed six, possibly a seventh, and damaged six. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.

He also fought in Malta with the 229 squadron as well as north Africa and Iraq.

By the time the war ended he commanded two squadrons in the UK and remained in the RAF until 1958, retiring as squadron leader with the rank of wing commander.

Now he is looking forward to celebrating his 100th birthday on July 16.

He joked: "On my birthday I'm looking forward to sitting at home, enjoying a glass of whisky and minding my own business."

Richard Hunting, chairman of the trust which organised the event, said it was "extraordinary" to have someone like Mr Farnes in attendance.

Visitors to the event, which took place on the clifftop site near Folkestone overlooking the English Channel, were treated to a Spitfire flypast and display on Sunday afternoon.

After a royal salute, there was a service of commemoration before relatives laid wreaths on the memorial and flowers at a wall which lists the names of the men who died and fought in the conflict as well as those who have died since.