One of the last of the Few, Wing Commander Paul Farnes DFM, died peacefully on Tuesday morning (28 Jan) at the age of 101.
A huge supporter of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust and well known to Trustees, staff and many of the volunteers at Capel-le-Ferne, Paul was the last member of the Few who was fit enough to attend the annual Memorial Day and proudly represented his RAF colleagues at this year’s Service of Commemoration just over a week before his 101st birthday on 16 July.
A tall, distinguished man with striking silver grey hair that he retained throughout his life, Paul Farnes was known for plain speaking but was generous with his time in support of Trust activities.
He was also very proud of the DFM he was awarded as a Sergeant Pilot, declaring in a recent interview that he “wouldn’t swap it for two DFCs”.
After joining the RAFVR in 1938 he took the opportunity In July 1939 of spending six months with the regular RAF before converting to Hurricanes and joining No 501 Squadron on 14 September, moving with the squadron to Bétheniville in France on 10 May 1940.
His score during the Battle of France was one enemy aircraft destroyed, one possibly destroyed and two shared, but that was just a curtain raiser to his impressive tally in the Battle of Britain that followed.
On 12 August 1940 he claimed a Ju 87 destroyed, on the 15th two more, on the 18th a Do 17, on the 28th a Bf 109 and on the 30th a He 111 damaged. He damaged two Bf 109s on 2 September and a Bf 110 on 3 September, damaged Do 17s on the 14th and 27th, destroyed a Ju 88 on the 30th and got probable Bf 109s on 29 October and 8 November – just after the official end of the Battle.
It was a remarkable tally – six destroyed, one probably destroyed and six damaged within the timeframe of the Battle of Britain – and saw him awarded the DFM on 22 October.
After being commissioned, Farnes served as an instructor and fought in Malta with No 229 Squadron as well as serving in North Africa and Iraq. As the war ended, he was in command of two squadrons in the UK.
Remaining in the RAF until 1958, he retired as a Squadron Leader, retaining the rank of Wing Commander.
He lived north east of Chichester in West Sussex and leaves a daughter, Linda, and son Jonathan. Another son, Nicholas, died in 1954.