The last surviving member of “The Few” – the airmen who won the Battle of Britain – has praised the “true professionals” who helped the country to prevail against Germany in 1940.
Group Captain John “Paddy” Hemingway is now 101 years old, and regards himself as “a lucky Irishman”, having survived multiple dog fights during the war.
The Battle of Britain was fought between July and October 1940 by about 3,000 Royal Air Force (RAF) aircrew, and some 544 aviators lost their lives in the conflict.
Following the victory, prime minister Sir Winston Churchill said: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
Cpt Hemingway was born in Dublin, Ireland, on July 17 1919.
He was granted an RAF short service commission on March 7 1939, and posted to 85 Squadron in Debden, Essex, flying Hurricane aeroplanes, staying with them throughout the Battle of Britain.
During the war he destroyed or severely damaged seven enemy aircraft and was shot down himself several times.
On April 11 1941 he was mentioned in dispatches, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) on July 1 1941.
Cpt Hemingway spent time in 1942 at an offensive radar station, but returned to operational duties in 1945, taking command of a spitfire squadron in Italy.
After the war he stayed in the RAF and retired in 1969 as a Group Captain.
He now lives in Wicklow, in Ireland, where he recently celebrated his 101st birthday.
Cpt Hemingway says he feels “privileged to have met so many amazing young men and pilots” throughout his life.
“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.”