The Few become fewer: Tributes are paid to Battle of Britain veteran as he dies aged 97
- Flight Lieutenant William ‘Bob’ Hughes joined RAF Volunteer Reserve at just 18
- He was one of less than 3,000 men who took part in the Battle of Britain in 1940
- Veteran, who died on Monday, was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross in 1943
Flight Lieutenant William ‘Bob’ Hughes, who died on Monday, joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as an 18-year-old
Tributes have been paid to one of the last Battle of Britain veterans after he died aged 97.
Flight Lieutenant William ‘Bob’ Hughes, who died on Monday, joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as an 18-year-old in the spring of 1939.
He then served with the 23 Squadron at RAF Wittering in west Sussex and took to the skies against the Germans in the Battle of Britain a year later.
Mr Hughes completed two operational tours in Bristol Blenheim bombers and was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for gallantry in 1943.
There are now only seven Battle of Britain veterans remaining following the deaths of Flight Lieutenant Ronald Mackay, Wing Commander Tom Neil and Squadron Leader Geoffrey Wellum earlier this year.
David Brocklehurst MBE, chairman of the Kent Battle of Britain Museum, said: ‘RIP Bob Hughes. Your duty is done.
‘Our flag will be flown at half mast for the next seven days as a mark of respect.
‘He should be remembered for his bravery. Many of them said they were not heroes, just doing their duty, but we see them all as heroes.
‘It makes it all the more important that we carry on their legacy as there will be a time when they will no longer be able to do so.’
A spokesperson for Shoreham Aircraft Museum, where Mr Hughes was a regular visitor, said: ‘Bob was a regular at the museum and will be sadly missed.
‘Rest in Peace Bob your duty is done.’
He was one of less than 3,000 men who took to the skies against the Germans in the Battle of Britain
Group Captain Patrick Tootal OBE, honorary secretary of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association, said: ‘He was a delightful man and very unassuming for a man with his war record.’
Members of the public have also taken to social media to pay their respects.
Julie Gough said: ‘A debt that cannot be repaid with words but actions. Never to be forgotten xox’
Arthur Elliott said: ‘RIP sir immense gratitude for your bravery.’
Paula McMullan added: ‘Thank you for everything you did for us and this country, sir. Blue skies forever.’
Mr Hughes (pictured during his time with the Royal Air Force) worked as a flying instructor before leaving the RAF in March 1946
Mr Hughes was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in 1921 before moving to Northampton at five years old.
Following the Battle of Britain in 1940, Mr Hughes was posted to Malta to serve with the 148 Squadron before being transferred to the 70 Squadron in Egypt.
He returned to Britain in early 1942 to complete a tour with the 12 Squadron, for which he earned his Distinguished Flying Cross.
Mr Hughes then worked as a flying instructor before leaving the RAF in March 1946.
The group of less than 3,000 men who took part in the Battle of Britain became known as ‘The Few’ following Winston Churchill’s wartime address to Parliament.
He summed up the contribution of RAF Fighter Command to the war effort with the words ‘never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few’.
544 men sacrificed their lives and successfully repelled the German Luftwaffe in the summer of 1940, turning the tide of World War Two.
The remaining surviving members of’ The Few’ are Flight Lieutenant William Clark, 219 Squadron; Wing Commander John Elkington, 1 Squadron; Wing Commander Paul Farnes, 501 Squadron; Squadron Leader John Hart, 602 Squadron; Flying Officer John Hemmingway, 86 Squadron; Pilot Officer Archie McInnes, 601 Squadron; Flight Lieutenant Maurice Moundson, 56 Squadron.
Never was so much owed by so many to so few: Churchill’s enduring tribute to the Battle of Britain heroes
The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion.
Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day; but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with deliberate careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power.
On no part of the Royal Air Force does the weight of the war fall more heavily than on the daylight bombers, who will play an invaluable part in the case of invasion and whose unflinching zeal it has been necessary in the meanwhile on numerous occasions to restrain.