Pen pictures – a few of the Few

This page gives brief biographies of some of the Few. As more are added, the diversity of nationalities, trades and ranks amongst the airmen who qualified for the Battle of Britain Clasp will become clear.

The biographies are based on, though not the same as, the entries for these men in the new edition of Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, now being prepared for publication. The rights to this book are owned by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust and a publication date will be announced as soon as possible. The traditional style of the book will remain.

Jan Borowski

P 0250, Flying Officer, Pilot, Polish, 302 Squadron (Hurricanes)

Jan Borowski served in the Polish Air Force before the war and fought the Luftwaffe in September 1939. He may have escaped to France, but arrived in England in the middle of 1940. He joined 302 Squadron at Northolt on October 17 1940. The next day he was part of a patrol that became lost in poor weather. Borowski’s aircraft crashed on Kempton Park racecourse and he was killed.

George Kemp Gilroy

90481, Flying Officer, Pilot, 603 Squadron (Spitfires)

“Sheep” Gilroy (born June 1 1914) was a farmer before the war and a member of 603 Squadron in the Auxiliary Air Force. He was called to full time service in late August 1939 and shared in the destruction of the first German aircraft to fall on British soil in wartime, on October 28 that year. On August 31, 1940, he was shot down and landed by parachute on the eastern side of London, where he was attacked by a crowd who believed he was German. Legend has it that he was rescued by a bus conductress. He was admitted to hospital. On September 13 Gilroy was awarded the DFC.

After being badly injured in an accident in December 1940, Gilroy flew sweeps over France in 1941. He later commanded 609 Squadron and received a bar to his DFC. He commanded a Wing in North Africa and was awarded the DSO on March 2 1943. He became a Group Captain and left the RAF at the end of the war. He took command of 603 Squadron in the Auxiliary Air Force in 1946.

“Sheep” Gilroy died in 1995.

William Howard Machin

968717, Sergeant, Air Gunner, 264 Squadron (Defiants)

Bill Machin came from Handsworth, Birmingham, and joined the RAFVR in 1939. He was posted to 264 Squadron at Hornchurch on August 22 1940. Two days later, on his first operational sortie, his aircraft was shot down and he was mortally wounded. He was 20 years old.

Tony Garforth Pickering

114471, Sergeant, Pilot, British, 32 and 501 Squadrons (Hurricanes)

Born in Foxton, Leicestershire, on August 25, 1920, “Pick” Pickering, as he was known in the RAF, became an engineering apprentice with British-Thomson Houston. He joined the RAFVR in 1939, arriving at Biggin Hill with two other novice Sergeant pilots on July 27, 1940. They were sent away for further training and returned in late August. Almost immediately the squadron was ordered north for a rest but Pick and the other two, who were considered to be in need of a rest, were posted to 501 Squadron at Gravesend.

On September 11 1940, Pick’s Hurricane was hit by return fire from a bomber he was attacking. He baled out, “slightly scorched” in his own words, and landed in the Guards’ Depot, Caterham.

After the Battle Tony Pickering served with 601 and 131 Squadrons and in the Middle East. He left the RAF in 1945 as a Squadron Leader.

In pre-war days he took up campanology and he has continued to ring church bells ever since.

Richard Malzard Hogg

33486 Pilot Officer, Pilot, British, 152 Squadron (Spitfires)

Hogg was born in the Jersey parish of St Peter and attended the island’s public school, Victoria College. He was “Dick” to his family, “Sammy” as a cadet at Cranwell and “Fatogg” on 152 Squadron, where he needed to be distinguished from Flying Officer E S Hogg, known as “Finogg”.

Before joining 152 Squadron on May 10 1940, Hogg had served with 14 and 263 Squadrons. He was shot down and killed on August 25 1940 over the Channel. His body was not found and he is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial.

James Nigel Watts Farmer

37316 Flight Lieutenant, Pilot, British, 302 Squadron (Hurricanes)

An old boy of Shrewsbury School, “Flossie” Farmer joined the RAF on a short service commission in 1935. He gained a permanent commission in 1939.

On July 15 1940 he became Chief Flying Instructor, attached to the newly formed 302 Squadron, where the majority of the pilots were Polish. When the squadron became operational Farmer flew regularly on sorties. He was awarded the DFC and was later a Flight Commander with 610 Squadron. Air Commodore Farmer retired from the RAF 1960.

Terence Gunion Lovell Gregg

29244 Squadron Leader, Pilot, New Zealander, 87 Squadron (Hurricanes)

Born in Wanganui (now often spelt Whanganui) in the North Island of New Zealand, Lovell Gregg was the son of a doctor and at one time wanted to study medicine himself. Instead he became the youngest qualified pilot in Australasia and was accepted for a short service commission in the RAF.

He served with 41 Squadron and between 1932 and 1935 he was with 30 Squadron in Iraq. Lovell Gregg was granted a medium commission in 1936 and then spent much time as an instructor and on operations room duties.

After converting to Hurricanes, “Shuvvel” Lovell Gregg joined 87 Squadron as a supernumerary on June 15 1940 and took command on July 12. Aware of his lack of recent experience he was initially content to let the Flight Commanders lead the squadron in combat.

At about 17.30 hrs on August 15, he led five Hurricanes against a force of at least 120 enemy aircraft over Lyme Bay. Lovell Gregg’s aircraft was hit and he was wounded. The Hurricane crashed at Abbotsbury and the pilot’s body was found beside it. He was buried in the churchyard at Holy Trinity, Warmwell, Dorset, close to the airfield from which he had taken off.

John Howard Duart

77352 Pilot Officer, Air Gunner, British, 219 Squadron (Blenheims)

Howard Duart was a pre-war pilot who was 33 and a member of the Civil Air Guard when war was declared. He was commissioned as a direct entry air gunner in February 1940, joined 219 Squadron the following month and served with the squadron through the Battle of Britain. He later served in Canada. Duart became a chartered accountant after the war and was later Secretary and Treasurer of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association. He died aged 101 in 2007.

Neville David Solomon

79731 Pilot Officer, Pilot, British, 29 Squadron (Blenheims) and 17 Squadron (Hurricanes)

Solomon joined the RAFVR before the war and was called up on September 1 1939. On August 18 1940 his Hurricane was shot down over the Channel by Messerschmitt Bf 109s. He was buried in France.

William Louis Buchanan Walker

82662 Pilot Officer, Pilot, 616 Squadron (Spitfires)

William Walker was educated at Brighton College and worked in the brewing industry before the war. He joined the RAFVR in 1938 and was called to full time service on September 1 1939. Walker arrived at 616 Squadron at Leconfield in June 1940.

On August 26 1940, Walker was shot down during an attack by Bf 109s, He baled out, wounded in the foot, and was rescued from the Goodwin Sands by a fishing boat. This episode ended his participation in the Battle of Britain.

Later in the war Walker’s service included anti aircraft co-operation duties and time with the Sector Gunnery Flight at Gatwick. During his RAF service, which ended as a Flight Lieutenant in September 1945, Walker was known as “Bill” or “Johnnie”. In later life he preferred to be addressed as “WIlliam”. He rose to become Chairman of Ind Coope. In 2011 a book of his poems was published by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust and is available for sale.

William Walker died, aged 99, on October 21 2012.

Raymond Andre Charles Aeberhardt

42781 Pilot Officer, Pilot, 19 Squadron (Spitfires)

Ray Aeberhardt was 19 years old when he was killed on August 31 1940. He had joined the RAF shortly before the outbreak of war on a short service commission and served with 19 Squadron from June 19 1940. On the last day of August the squadron went into action against a German force attacking Debden aerodrome. Aeberhardt’s Spitfire was badly damaged and he crashed as he attempted to land at Fowlmere. He was buried in the churchyard of St Mary and St Andrew, Whittlesford, Cambridgeshire.

George William Jefferys

754867, Sergeant, Pilot, 43 and 46 Squadrons (Hurricanes)

As a member of the RAFVR, George Jefferys was called up on the outbreak of war and completed his training at RAF Lossiemouth in July 1940. During September 1940, Sergeant Jefferys was credited with four enemy aircraft destroyed and one probably destroyed. However, on September 18 he was shot down in combat over Clacton on Sea, Essex and was killed, aged 20, after his parachute failed to open.

George Jefferys was buried in the churchyard at St Michael’s, Winterbourne, Gloucestershire.

David Nicholas Owen Jenkins

41930, Pilot Officer, Pilot, 253 Squadron (Hurricanes)

Born in 1919, David Jenkins – he would be “Jenks” in the RAF – attended Marlborough College for four years. He joined the RAF on a short service commission, beginning his training in February 1939. Jenkins served with 253 Squadron in France, surviving a forced-landing after his Hurricane was hit by return fire.

On August 30 1940, flying from Kenley, “Jenks” was shot down over Redhill and baled out, but was killed under his parachute by German fighters.

He was buried at St Margaret’s, Bagendon, near Cirencester, Gloucestershire.

Richard Leoline Jones

81362, Pilot Officer, Pilot, 64 and 19 Squadrons (Spitfires)

Before the war Richard Jones worked in the furniture trade. He joined the RAFVR and began training at Woodley near Reading. He was called up on September 1 1939 and commissioned after completing his training at Ternhill in Shropshire. He joined 64 Squadron on July 27 1940, moving to 19 Squadron on September 12. On September 28 Jones tried to bale out of his Spitfire after it was hit by enemy fire and he was slightly wounded, but found that the hood had jammed. He managed a crash landing at Hawkhurst, Kent.

Richard Jones returned to 64 Squadron after the Battle of Britain. He went to the de Havilland company as a test pilot in April 1941 and remained on test duties until his release from the RAF, as a Flight Lieutenant, in 1946. In 1944 he received a King’s Commendation for valuable service in the air.

Jones later re-joined the RAFVR. He worked in the car trade and spent 12 years as an usher at the magistrates’ court in Oxford. He died in March 2012.

George Cecil Unwin

46298 Flight Sergeant Pilot 19 Squadron (Spitfires)

Yorkshire-born, George Unwin joined the RAF in 1929 as an apprentice clerk at RAF records, Ruislip. He began pilot training in 1935 and later joined 19 Squadron.

During the fighting over Dunkirk, “Grumpy” Unwin claimed a number of victories and his success continued during the Battle of Britain and beyond. The nickname “Grumpy” had been awarded by Douglas Bader, after Unwin complained of the noise of Bader adjusting a new pair of tin legs. Grumpy was awarded the DFM on October 1 1940 and a bar on December 6 the same year. He appeared in some of the photographs of 19 Squadron pilots taken at Fowlmere in September 1940.

Later in the war Unwin became an instructor and flew Mosquitos with 613 Squadron. In the early 1950s he commanded 84 Squadron in operations against terrorists in Malaya and was awarded the DSO.

Wing Commander Unwin retired from the RAF in 1961 and died in 2006.

Ernest Edward Males

82661 Pilot Officer Pilot 72 Squadron (Spitfires)

Males joined the RAFVR shortly before the war and was called up on September 1 1939. He was commissioned in June 1940 and posted to 72 Squadron.

During the Battle of Britain Males claimed two enemy aircraft destroyed, one shared and one damaged. He baled out of a burning Spitfire on September 4 and on September 10 he forced-landed after his aircraft was hit by return fire.

On September 27 Males, aged 20, was shot down and killed in combat with Messerschmitt Bf 109s over Sevenoaks.