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Last surviving Battle of Britain pilot, 100, on 'staggering luck' that kept him alive - 0_The-Prince-Of-Wales-And-The-Duchess-Of-Cornwall-Attend-Service-To-Mark-The-77th-Anniversary-Of-The-B.jpg ...



 
 
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Old July 4th 20, 12:42 AM posted to alt.binaries.pictures.aviation
Miloch
external usenet poster
 
Posts: 23,857
Default Last surviving Battle of Britain pilot, 100, on 'staggering luck' that kept him alive - 0_The-Prince-Of-Wales-And-The-Duchess-Of-Cornwall-Attend-Service-To-Mark-The-77th-Anniversary-Of-The-B.jpg ...

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-new...pilot-22297770

EXCLUSIVE Battle of Britain veteran John Hemingway, who will turn 101 next week,
says it was only 'staggering luck' that saw him survive the war after being shot
down four times

n the blue skies over south-east England, young Pilot Officer John Hemingway
felt completely alone. There may have been 3,000 aircrew who fought in the
Battle of Britain, which began 80 years ago this week.

Yet thundering through summer skies surrounded by hundreds of Luftwaffe
aircraft, the Hurricane pilot was sharply conscious he had only his own wits to
rely on to stay alive.

“You need to appreciate, fighters had no crew, it was just you, a single
fighter,” he explains.

“Squadrons got you into the battle, but in the battle, you did your own
fighting.”

Today, Irishman John, known as Paddy, is, in the saddest sense, alone again –
the only airman who fought in the Battle of Britain still alive.

The very last of Winston Churchill’s famous “few” about whom he said: “Never in
the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many.”

Around half of them lost their lives in the battle, which began on July 10,
1940. When John goes, the few will finally become none.

Now living in a care home in his native Dublin, set to turn 101 in one week’s
time, he reflects on what he regards only as his “luck” to have survived the
Battle of Britain, Adolf Hitler’s attempt to commandeer the skies before
Operation Sealion – the planned Nazi invasion of Britain.

John was shot down twice during the three-and-a-half month battle and four times
in total during the war. But he doesn’t enjoy sensationalising his part.

“Others write the history – we were doing our job,” he insists, recalling how
emotion couldn’t come into it.

He says: “Everything happened very quickly but in slow motion during a dogfight.
It was not a time for emotions, except for momentary anger. Too much emotion
could be dangerous.

“And many a time you were too exhausted and drained to feel anything much, even
fear. I just went on because every day, people were disappearing, new faces
arriving, you didn’t know anybody, you were going into war with people you
didn’t know.

“Do not forget, we were incredibly young, most of us were less than 23. So much
was happening, it was just a matter of taking each day at a time.

“Death in combat is not democratic, you could never guarantee anything.”

He adds: “I am here because I have had some staggering luck and fought alongside
great pilots in magnificent aircraft with ground crew in the best air force in
the world.

“This was a long time ago and many are not here anymore. I am sad about that.”

This year has seen the final few falling fast.

In January, Wing Commander Paul Farnes, the last surviving ace of the battle,
died aged 101. In May, Flight Lieutenant Terry Clark died soon after his 101st
birthday.

The weight of legacy now weighs singly on John’s shoulders, but then he got used
to that long ago.

The father of three and grandfather of seven was just a baby-faced 21 year-old
when he took part in the Battle of Britain.

He had enlisted with the RAF in 1938, and saw action with 85 Squadron early over
France.

By June 1940, back in England with the Squadron now under Group Captain Peter
Townsend – later Princess Margaret’s lover – he was tasked with training
inexperienced pilots.

In the early phases of the battle, the Luftwaffe concentrated on hitting ports
and shipping routes in the Channel. But everything changed in August, when the
Germans switched to attacking British airbases.

On August 18 – “the hardest day” when around 100 German and 136 British aircraft
are believed to have been destroyed or damaged – John’s plane was hit by
gunfire.

He was attacked by two aircraft over the North Sea and “started to spin”.

He recalls: “Everything in the cockpit was covered in oil, but the hood opened
easily, and I could then see enough to regain control, at about 9,000ft.

“I set course for England, but my engine stopped. I had no wish to bail out, on
the other hand I remembered that Hurricanes tipped up and sank when landed in
the sea. In the event, I tried to climb out on the wing... but everything was so
slippery I was blown straight off.

“My parachute opened perfectly, and I landed in the sea.”

John began to swim frantically “among jellyfish” until “a lifeboat bumped into
me”. In fact, they had been searching for him for an hour and a half, and,
deciding he could not survive the cold water, had turned back, only then
knocking into him “rolling in the waves”.

Incredibly, John still managed to help them row back to shore.

Finally returning to his squadron two days later, he found himself surrounded by
“unfamiliar faces” and discovered among the losses was a friend, Flight
Commander Dickie Lee.

With rare emotion, he admits: “If anything affected me seriously, it was that.
He was a wonderful person, I still say it, I still think it. And it was – you
just did not believe. No, he was going to turn up. But he never did of course.”

Just eight days later, on August 26, John was shot down again.

An enemy formation of 15 Dornier 215s was flying at 15,000ft up the Thames and
John’s squadron was scrambled to attack them head on. This time, cannon fire hit
his engine.

“The hood opened easily, and I bailed out,” he recalls. “Remembering the enemy
were shooting at parachutists, I did a delayed drop as far as the cloud before
opening my parachute. I landed in Pitsea Marshes where the local Home Guard was,
but I speak reasonably good English, so they didn’t shoot me.

“My sinus just about killed me for about four days.”

By September, the squadron was so decimated it was withdrawn.

John says: “Peter Townsend was in hospital, wounded, our commanders and their
deputies were dead, and I think there were just seven of us still fully active
out of the 18 starters.”

The RAF lost 1,250 aircraft in the battle, but their superior radar and flying
technology helped them to victory.

That month, Hitler gave up Operation Sealion, but the war was far from over for
John, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1941.

As a squadron leader in Italy, his Spitfire was hit by German ground fire in
April, 1945 and he bailed out again.

He was saved by Italian partisans who smuggled him to safety dressed in
peasant’s clothing. A local family lent him one of their children to walk him
through a German checkpoint.

John survived the war and married wife Bridget. They had three children and she
died in 1998. John retired from the RAF in 1969 as a Group Captain.

Pressed again how he managed to survive, John resists any acknowledgment of
skill. Today, he maybe fragile, but that stiff upper lip remains firm. “Training
gave you the right instincts to stay alive,” is all he will say.

Additional reporting by Martin Dwan

The RAF Benevolent Fund supports serving and retired RAF personnel and their
families. It will launch a Battle of Britain podcast on July 10 which explores
the history of the conflict. To find out more go to rafbf.orgq





*

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Attached Files
File Type: 0_The-Prince-Of-Wales-And-The-Duchess-Of-Cornwall-Attend-Service-To-Mark-The-77th-Anniversary-Of-The (39.2 KB, 2 views)
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  #2  
Old July 4th 20, 02:39 AM posted to alt.binaries.pictures.aviation
Mitchell Holman[_9_]
external usenet poster
 
Posts: 8,343
Default Last surviving Battle of Britain pilot, 100, on 'staggering luck' that kept him alive - 0_The-Prince-Of-Wales-And-The-Duchess-Of-Cornwall-Attend-Service-To-Mark-The-77th-Anniversary-Of-The-B.jpg ...

Miloch wrote in
:

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-new...le-britain-pil
ot-22297770

EXCLUSIVE Battle of Britain veteran John Hemingway, who will turn 101
next week, says it was only 'staggering luck' that saw him survive the
war after being shot down four times



Interesting story, thanks.




n the blue skies over south-east England, young Pilot Officer John
Hemingway felt completely alone. There may have been 3,000 aircrew who
fought in the Battle of Britain, which began 80 years ago this week.

Yet thundering through summer skies surrounded by hundreds of
Luftwaffe aircraft, the Hurricane pilot was sharply conscious he had
only his own wits to rely on to stay alive.

“You need to appreciate, fighters had no crew, it was just you, a
single fighter,” he explains.

“Squadrons got you into the battle, but in the battle, you did your
own fighting.”

Today, Irishman John, known as Paddy, is, in the saddest sense, alone
again – the only airman who fought in the Battle of Britain still
alive.

The very last of Winston Churchill’s famous “few” about whom he said:
“Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so
many.”

Around half of them lost their lives in the battle, which began on
July 10, 1940. When John goes, the few will finally become none.

Now living in a care home in his native Dublin, set to turn 101 in one
week’s time, he reflects on what he regards only as his “luck” to have
survived the Battle of Britain, Adolf Hitler’s attempt to commandeer
the skies before Operation Sealion – the planned Nazi invasion of
Britain.

John was shot down twice during the three-and-a-half month battle and
four times in total during the war. But he doesn’t enjoy
sensationalising his part.

“Others write the history – we were doing our job,” he insists,
recalling how emotion couldn’t come into it.

He says: “Everything happened very quickly but in slow motion during a
dogfight. It was not a time for emotions, except for momentary anger.
Too much emotion could be dangerous.

“And many a time you were too exhausted and drained to feel anything
much, even fear. I just went on because every day, people were
disappearing, new faces arriving, you didn’t know anybody, you were
going into war with people you didn’t know.

“Do not forget, we were incredibly young, most of us were less than
23. So much was happening, it was just a matter of taking each day at
a time.

“Death in combat is not democratic, you could never guarantee
anything.”

He adds: “I am here because I have had some staggering luck and fought
alongside great pilots in magnificent aircraft with ground crew in the
best air force in the world.

“This was a long time ago and many are not here anymore. I am sad
about that.”

This year has seen the final few falling fast.

In January, Wing Commander Paul Farnes, the last surviving ace of the
battle, died aged 101. In May, Flight Lieutenant Terry Clark died soon
after his 101st birthday.

The weight of legacy now weighs singly on John’s shoulders, but then
he got used to that long ago.

The father of three and grandfather of seven was just a baby-faced 21
year-old when he took part in the Battle of Britain.

He had enlisted with the RAF in 1938, and saw action with 85 Squadron
early over France.

By June 1940, back in England with the Squadron now under Group
Captain Peter Townsend – later Princess Margaret’s lover – he was
tasked with training inexperienced pilots.

In the early phases of the battle, the Luftwaffe concentrated on
hitting ports and shipping routes in the Channel. But everything
changed in August, when the Germans switched to attacking British
airbases.

On August 18 – “the hardest day” when around 100 German and 136
British aircraft are believed to have been destroyed or damaged –
John’s plane was hit by gunfire.

He was attacked by two aircraft over the North Sea and “started to
spin”.

He recalls: “Everything in the cockpit was covered in oil, but the
hood opened easily, and I could then see enough to regain control, at
about 9,000ft.

“I set course for England, but my engine stopped. I had no wish to
bail out, on the other hand I remembered that Hurricanes tipped up and
sank when landed in the sea. In the event, I tried to climb out on the
wing... but everything was so slippery I was blown straight off.

“My parachute opened perfectly, and I landed in the sea.”

John began to swim frantically “among jellyfish” until “a lifeboat
bumped into me”. In fact, they had been searching for him for an hour
and a half, and, deciding he could not survive the cold water, had
turned back, only then knocking into him “rolling in the waves”.

Incredibly, John still managed to help them row back to shore.

Finally returning to his squadron two days later, he found himself
surrounded by “unfamiliar faces” and discovered among the losses was a
friend, Flight Commander Dickie Lee.

With rare emotion, he admits: “If anything affected me seriously, it
was that. He was a wonderful person, I still say it, I still think it.
And it was – you just did not believe. No, he was going to turn up.
But he never did of course.”

Just eight days later, on August 26, John was shot down again.

An enemy formation of 15 Dornier 215s was flying at 15,000ft up the
Thames and John’s squadron was scrambled to attack them head on. This
time, cannon fire hit his engine.

“The hood opened easily, and I bailed out,” he recalls. “Remembering
the enemy were shooting at parachutists, I did a delayed drop as far
as the cloud before opening my parachute. I landed in Pitsea Marshes
where the local Home Guard was, but I speak reasonably good English,
so they didn’t shoot me.

“My sinus just about killed me for about four days.”

By September, the squadron was so decimated it was withdrawn.

John says: “Peter Townsend was in hospital, wounded, our commanders
and their deputies were dead, and I think there were just seven of us
still fully active out of the 18 starters.”

The RAF lost 1,250 aircraft in the battle, but their superior radar
and flying technology helped them to victory.

That month, Hitler gave up Operation Sealion, but the war was far from
over for John, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1941.

As a squadron leader in Italy, his Spitfire was hit by German ground
fire in April, 1945 and he bailed out again.

He was saved by Italian partisans who smuggled him to safety dressed
in peasant’s clothing. A local family lent him one of their children
to walk him through a German checkpoint.

John survived the war and married wife Bridget. They had three
children and she died in 1998. John retired from the RAF in 1969 as a
Group Captain.

Pressed again how he managed to survive, John resists any
acknowledgment of skill. Today, he maybe fragile, but that stiff upper
lip remains firm. “Training gave you the right instincts to stay
alive,” is all he will say.

Additional reporting by Martin Dwan

The RAF Benevolent Fund supports serving and retired RAF personnel and
their families. It will launch a Battle of Britain podcast on July 10
which explores the history of the conflict. To find out more go to
rafbf.orgq





*

Attachment decoded: untitled-2.txt
--=====================_1975084559==_



Attachment decoded:
0_The-Prince-Of-Wales-And-The-Duchess-Of-Cornwall-Attend-Service-To-Mar
k-The-77th-Anniversary-Of-The-B.jpg
--=====================_1975084559==_



Attachment decoded: Battle of Britain veteran John Hemingway turns 101
next week.jpg --=====================_1975084559==_



Attachment decoded: He flew a Hawker Hurricane in the battle.jpg
--=====================_1975084559==_



Attachment decoded: Paddy now lives in a care home in Dublin.jpg
--=====================_1975084559==_



Attachment decoded: Paddy, second left, with 85 Squadron
colleagues.jpg --=====================_1975084559==_



Attachment decoded: Paddy's squadron was led by Peter Townsend.jpg
--=====================_1975084559==_--


 




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