Cambridgeshire

Battle of Britain pilot Archie McInnes dies after 100th birthday

Archie McInnes Image copyright SAC Emma Wade/MoD/Crown Copyright
Image caption Last year Flt Lt McInnes was taken for a flight in a two-seater Spitfire over Kent

A Battle of Britain veteran has died hours after celebrating his 100th birthday, taking the number of surviving members of "The Few" to five, his biographer said.

Archie McInnes, who retired to Cambridge, flew Hurricanes during the battle in the skies over southern England.

He completed his pilot training aged 21 and was commissioned the next day.

He celebrated his 100th birthday on Wednesday. He then died that night.

His biographer and friend, Jonny Cracknell, wrote of his sadness of the "hero" passing:

He had earlier written to wish Flt Lt McInnes a happy birthday, noting that he was the "last of the six remaining Battle of Britain 'Few' to become a centenarian".

Those who fought in the three-and-a-half-month Battle of Britain came to be known as The Few after a speech by prime minister Winston Churchill.

The former leader said of their sacrifices in battle: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

The British victory marked a turning point in World War Two, but by the end of the battle 544 RAF pilots and aircrew had died.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Archie McInnes flew a Hurricane in the Battle of Britain

The veteran pilot flew Hurricanes with 601 Squadron in Exeter, later moving to 238 Squadron at Chilbolton, Hampshire, on 8 October 1940.

After the Battle of Britain ended on 31 October 1940 he was on board HMS Victorious as part of the team hunting for German battleship the Bismarck.

From April 1941, Flt Lt McInnes was part of the North African campaign where he flew various missions including providing cover for bombers.

He was shot down by a Messerschmitt fighter plane on October 30 1941 and lost his left arm.

He was released from the RAF in 1946 as a flight lieutenant and eventually retired to village life just outside Cambridge.

Image copyright SAC Emma Wade/MoD/Crown Copyright
Image caption Archie McInnes was a pilot with 601 Squadron in Exeter, later moving to 238 Squadron at Chilbolton, Hampshire

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