Searching for her grandfather’s name in the latest edition of Men of the Battle of Britain, published by Frontline in association with the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust, gave Wendy Mortimer the surprise of her life.
Wendy and her relatives knew that Percival Alexander Mortimer had been killed serving in the RAF in the Second World War, but they knew nothing about his service record.
When Wendy dipped into Men of the Battle of Britain on the off-chance that she would learn something more, she was amazed to find that he had been one of ‘the Few’ – the men who took part in the Battle in 1940.
“My grandfather died when my father Robert was two, and my grandmother took her son back to South Africa and remarried,” explained Wendy, who now lives in London. “The family didn’t talk about what my grandfather had done, and there were no medals on display.”
Wendy may never have known the truth, had she not found herself working as a carer last year while studying physiotherapy as a mature student
“I was looking after a lady called June Langdon, who had been a NAAFI girl,” recalled Wendy, now 42. “She shared lots of her wartime stories and we visited some sites together, and the experience inspired me to look more deeply into my grandfather’s story.”
After discovering the truth in the latest edition of Kenneth Wynn’s work, Wendy said it had been “a complete shock”.
She added: “I had absolutely no idea about his wartime history and never dreamed he had flown in the Battle of Britain. I then got in touch with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and discovered that he was buried in Newcastle upon Tyne.
“I emailed my father to tell him what I had discovered and he told me I had tripled the family’s knowledge with one message.”
P A Mortimer was called up on 1 September 1939, completed his training, converted to Hurricanes and was posted to No 85 Squadron on 4 September 1940. A week later he moved on to No 257 Squadron.
By the end of the Battle of Britain he had been credited with two enemy aircraft destroyed and one damaged. He went on to serve in North Africa and Malta and in September 1942 took up a new post as an instructor at Crosby-on-Eden near Carlisle.
Flight Lieutenant Mortimer was gravely injured on November 6 when a Miles Master advanced trainer crashed. He died the next day.
After learning the truth about her grandfather, Wendy requested a re-issue of his medals, only to discover that they had never been issued. The family has now obtained his medals, including his 1939-1945 Star with Battle of Britain Clasp.
“It was a very emotional moment,” Wendy commented. “I now live in London and have walked past the Battle of Britain Monument many times without any idea that I had a connection with it. I am very proud of what my grandfather and his fellow airmen achieved.”
Wendy’s story is told in the latest edition of 1940, the magazine that is exclusively available to members of the Friends of the Few. Click here to find out how to join.
The Trust has exclusive signed, slipcased, copies of Men of the Battle of Britain available from the shop. Click here to find out more.