Social media superstar youngster Jacob the Pilot will celebrate his seventh birthday by walking to the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne to raise money for an RAF charity next month.
Jacob and his dad, Andrew Newson, will spend two days walking from the former site of RAF Manston to the Memorial – a total of around 25 miles – and plan to arrive at the site during the afternoon of 31 October to mark the official end of the Battle of Britain, 80 years ago.
Jacob, currently just six years old, has become something of a legend on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram after his love of combat aircraft and flying led to him being ‘adopted’ by the Royal Air Force.
Dad Andrew explained that things snowballed after Jacob attended the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) in 2018 wearing a junior-sized flying suit. The then four year-old was upset that no-one returned his salute, and so ahead of RIAT 2019 Andrew used social media to ask for RAF crew members to do so that year.
What he didn’t expect was that the Red Arrows crew would take young Jacob behind the flight line and make a huge fuss of the aircraft-obsessed youngster.
“Since then things have snowballed,” Andrew went on. “We have done several events together to raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund – more than £23,000 so far – and Jacob has in return been interviewed, taken behind the scenes and enjoyed all sorts of treats and special access.”
The couple have been trying to organise a Dunkirk Challenge, again to raise funds for the RAFBF, but have had every attempt thwarted by the problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
As a result, the father and son fundraisers have brought their Dunkirk Challenge back to these shores, following in the footsteps of one of the Few, Squadron Leader Al Deere, who flew patrols fom Manston despite being based at Hornchurch during the Battle of Britain – until Manston was put out of action by bomb damage in August 1940.
Although sharing his son’s fascination with the RAF, Andrew is himself ex-Army, having served in the Royal Signals from 1998 to 2006 and taking part in operational tours to Kosovo, Bosnia and Iraq.
“This trip is our way of saying thanks to the RAF for all the support they have given to Jacob,” he said. “It’s also a happy coincidence that the 31st will be Jacob’s seventh birthday as well as the anniversary of the end of the Battle.”