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Paul Farnes (1918–2020), last surviving WWII Battle of Britain flying ace

WireImage / Mike Marsland

Farnes was a sergeant during the battle, later promoted several times until he was wing commander as the war ended

Paul Farnes was a fighter pilot for the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force, the last of the flying aces who fought the Battle of Britain during World War II. The fighter pilots who flew in the Battle of Britain were known as “The Few,” recalling Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s famous speech praising them: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Farnes was a sergeant during the battle, later promoted several times until he was wing commander as the war ended, and his eight kills merited him the title of ace. Two other Battle of Britain fighter pilots survive, neither of them aces. In addition to the Battle of Britain, Farnes fought in the Battle of France as well as in North Africa.

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Died: January 28, 2020 (Who else died on January 28?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 101.


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Later life: After the war, Farnes became a flight instructor with the RAF, where he remained until his retirement in 1958. He later ran a hotel.

Notable quote: “There were so many. The sky was filled with planes. Once you dived down and entered the fight, there was no going back and no question of looking out for your own people. It was chaotic and every man for himself.” —from a 2015 interview with the Mirror

What people said about him: “Wg Cdr Paul Farnes DFM was an extraordinary man and one of a band of exceptionally brave aviators to whom we owe our freedom today. On behalf of the RAF, I offer Paul’s family and friends our sincere condolences — lest we forget.” —ACM Mike Wigston, RAF Chief of the Air Staff

“Very sad to hear that Battle of Britain Hurricane pilot Wg Cdr Paul Farnes died yesterday aged 101. He was a quiet man who always rejected the notion he did anything remotely heroic. He and his friends were the very best of the best. The Few are fewer. RIP sir. Your duty is done.” —author John Nichol

Full obituary: BBC

Related lives:

  • Don Howison (1921–2020), oldest remaining survivor of WWII USS Indianapolis disaster
  • Dick Churchill (2019), last surviving WWII “Great Escape” team member
  • Dick Winters (1918–2011), Easy Company commander featured in “Band of Brothers”