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Battle of Britain war hero dies aged 99

One of the last hero pilots of the Battle of Britain was honoured with a Spitfire flypast at his funeral after he died aged 99. 

Squadron Leader Nigel Rose shot down four Nazi planes and survived a dog fight with a Messerschmitt 110 over the Channel, during his courageous service in the Second World War.

The daring airman passed away on September 10 and was laid to rest in his home town of Hay-on-Wye, Herefordshire, on Saturday.

To mark his burial a Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight performed three flypasts over St Eignon Church.

RAF airman carry the coffin of Battle of Britain hero pilot Nigel Rose at his funeral service in Eigon Church, Llanigon

Squadron Leader Nigel rose on his wedding day with wife, Pam, in 1941

Squadron Leader Nigel Rose

Left, Squadron Leader Rose with his wife Pam on their wedding day in 1941 and right, long retired from the RAF, aged 82

Mr Rose’s sad passing means there are only 11 Battle of Britain pilots, dubbed ‘The Few’ by Winston Churchill, still with us.

The majority of the daring flyers will now be in their late nineties, with flying officer Ken Wilkinson the last veteran to pass away, in August this year. 

The average life expectancy for British pilots at the time of the Battle of Britain, when the country was close to invasion and defeat at the hands of the Nazis, was just four weeks. 

Many were in their late teens or early twenties when they took to the skies in Spitfires and Hurricanes from July to October 1940. Others flew in Blenheims, Beaufighters and Defiants. Some became the ‘aces’ of the Battle, shooting down plane after plane.

During the Battle, Sir Winston Churchill said: ‘The gratitude of every home in our island, in our empire, and indeed throughout the world, 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.’

Mr Rose met Prince Charles when he enjoyed a special tea for  veterans during the opening of the new Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Museum in Stanmore, north London

Mr Rose met Prince Charles when he enjoyed a special tea for veterans during the opening of the new Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Museum in Stanmore, north London

To mark Mr Rose's burial a Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight performed three flypasts over St Eignon Church

To mark Mr Rose’s burial a Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight performed three flypasts over St Eignon Church

When it was over, 544 RAF pilots and aircrew were dead. 

However, despite the danger of defending his country over land and sea, Mr Rose survived the dogfights and went on to enjoy a long and happy life.

His funeral service was packed with friends and family,  including his daughter, best-selling novelist Barbara Erskine – and military dignitaries, all wishing to say a final farewell to a man who risked his life in the service of others.

A spokesman for RAF Cosford said: ‘It was a poignant and fitting way to say goodbye to a national war hero

‘The Queen’s Colour Squadron performed beautifully taking the coffin from the church to the Hurst.

‘As the Spitfire dropped on the final occasion it waggled its wings which was a farewell from one fighter pilot to another.

Mr Rose, centre, and Ken Wilkinson, right, attend a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, in central London, during August 2010

Mr Rose, centre, and Ken Wilkinson, right, attend a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, in central London, during August 2010

‘You have to be pretty noteworthy to get a flypast and it showed the magnitude of his service to his country.’

Air Commodore Alan Gillespie represented Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall at the service.

Lord Lieutenant of Powys Shân Josephine Legge-Bourke was also in attendance alongside air force personnel and representative from the Battle of Britain Trust.

Sqn Ldr Rose served was based in the south of England for most of the war, having signed up to the RAF in 1938, but was also posted to the Middle East to defend the Suez Canal at El Ballah.

He previously described coming under attack by the Luftwaffe and said they ‘made rather a mess of the Spitfire’.

He added: ‘At first I thought I had to get out. I put the hood back, undid the straps and got my feet up on the seat.

Battle of Britain pilots pose for a photo with Prince Charles at Clarence House in London. Left back: Sqn Ldr Tony Iveson, Wg Cdr Dick Summers, Luiz Flower, Wg Cdr Bob Foster, Prince of Wales, Sqn Ldr Geoffey Wellum, Flt Lt Ronald Smyth, Flt Lt William Walker. Front, Fg Off Ken Wilkinson, Wg Cdr Tom Neil, Flt Lt Owen Burns, Sqn Ldr Graham Leggett, Wg Cdr Terry Kane, Flt Lt Richard Jones, Sqn Ldr Nigel Rose

Battle of Britain pilots pose for a photo with Prince Charles at Clarence House in London. Left back: Sqn Ldr Tony Iveson, Wg Cdr Dick Summers, Luiz Flower, Wg Cdr Bob Foster, Prince of Wales, Sqn Ldr Geoffey Wellum, Flt Lt Ronald Smyth, Flt Lt William Walker. Front, Fg Off Ken Wilkinson, Wg Cdr Tom Neil, Flt Lt Owen Burns, Sqn Ldr Graham Leggett, Wg Cdr Terry Kane, Flt Lt Richard Jones, Sqn Ldr Nigel Rose

‘But then I decided that I could get back. I managed that and landed with no brakes, flaps or radio.’

He went on to say the Spitfire was ‘something out of this world’ and added: ‘It was a beautiful aircraft to fly.

‘It had no bad habits, it had its own personality, and as some people have said once you were sitting in the cockpit and strapped in, you felt part of it and it felt part of you.’

After serving with No 54 Squadron, he left the RAF in February 1946 and became a chartered quantity surveyor. 

Sir Stephen Hillier, RAF Chief of the Air Staff, said: ‘Squadron Leader Nigel Rose, as one of the sadly ever diminishing number of ‘The Few’, was part of an extraordinary cadre of brave and selfless people to whom we owe our freedom.

‘They remain an inspiration to the RAF of today.

‘Their bravery and sacrifice should never be forgotten – lest we forget.’

 

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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