One of 'The Few' shares his memories of the Battle of Britain
Wing Commander Paul Farnes DFM, 97, is a famed World War Two RAF fighter pilot and one of "The Few" surviving pilots of the Battle of Britain.
Sign up for our email newsletter to get our latest news in your inbox
To mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain Wing Commander Paul Farnes tells us about the role he played and why it’s important we continue to remember the sacrifices made all those years ago.
He said, “the Battle of Britain was important, it’s a whole part of history and we should continue to be remember it. It was special, if we hadn’t won we wouldn’t be here. I’m proud to have played my part, we all were.”
Wing Commander Farnes joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) in April 1938, before the outbreak of war. He said, “the world was becoming a troubled place, we realised Hitler was going to be a problem and I thought it might be a good idea”.
When the battle began Paul was just 21-years-old, but he was already an experienced pilot with two kills to his name having previously fought in France. Over the next few months he and his comrades were flying up to five sorties a day, every day, and he added a further six German aircraft to his tally. It was a time of heavy casualties, when young pilots could join a unit and be dead within a day or two, but despite that, one of his lasting memories is how much he enjoyed it.
“I enjoyed the Battle of Britain. Perhaps I shouldn’t say that, but I did,” he explains.
“I never felt scared, I was doing what I was trained to do and I was prepared. I had always wanted to fly and flying the Hurricane was quite a thing.
"Others, of course, had very little training before the fighting began, that's when many were lost. There was a shortage of pilots, at one point we had more trouble finding pilots than planes. They were difficult times but we got away with it alright.
The RAF airmen who took part in the Battle of Britain were immortalised as 'The Few' in a speech made by Sir Winston Churchill in August 1940. Churchill said; "Never, in the field of human conflict, was so much owed by so many to so few". Seventy five years on, the ranks of "The Few" have thinned to only a handful of men in their mid- 90s.
Wing Commander Farnes remembers hearing those words but not realising quite how significant they were, he didn't for a second think that 75 years later people would still be quoting them.
"At the time I ddn't realise the significance. We were so busy that we simply didn't think about the future and the shape of the war. We were in the moment, doing what we had to do. Some may think those who took part in the Battle of Britain get too much credit. We don't like to shout about it, but if it wasn't for us we'd be in a sorry state now."
Wing Commander Farnes was aware of SSAFA throughout his military career and knew that during the war SSAFA were back home looking after the families and that should he need to call upon them for support either as a serviceman or veteran, they'd be there.