Battle of Britain RAF Spitfire pilot Geoffrey Wellum dies

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Media caption,

Geoffrey Wellum recalls the RAF's 'finest hour'

The youngest Spitfire pilot to fly in the Battle of Britain during World War Two has died, it has been announced.

Sqn Ldr Geoffrey Wellum, who was just 18 when he joined the RAF in August 1939, died at his home in Cornwall on Wednesday evening aged 96.

He served with 92 Squadron and his first missions included the "dogfights" above London and the Home Counties for which the battle became known.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust said it was "saddened by the news".

Image source, Geoffrey Wellum
Image caption,
Unique friendships were forged in the heat of battle - Geoffrey Wellum (r) and his commanding officer Brian Kingcombe

Sqn Ldr Wellum was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and was later promoted to flight commander with 65 Squadron.

He later led eight Spitfires from HMS Furious to relieve Malta.

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Sqn Ldr Wellum, speaking in 2013, said: "Somebody said: 'Here's a Spitfire - fly it, and if you break it there will be bloody hell to pay'."

"Looking at my life now, I had peaked at about 21 or 22. It was just lovely blokes, all together in Fighter Squadron."

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Geoffrey Wellum with Prince Charles following a service at Westminster Abbey to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain

He remained in the RAF until 1960.

Patrick Tootal, secretary of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust, said members of the charity's staff and volunteers had been "much saddened by the news".

"Only this week Sqn Ldr Wellum had been talking enthusiastically about attending the Memorial Service at Westminster Abbey on 16 September," he said.

Battle of Britain: July to October 1940

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Hurricanes taking off from Gravesend in Kent during the Battle of Britain in September 1940
  • The Battle of Britain was a pivotal moment in WW2 when the country stood alone against Hitler's seemingly unstoppable military power
  • In July 1940 the RAF deployed 640 planes, although more were available, and aircraft production was subsequently ramped up
  • The Luftwaffe could call upon 2,600 fighters and bombers
  • Nearly 3,000 aircrew served with RAF Fighter Command during the battle
  • The average age of a pilot was 20 years old
  • 20% of the pilots were from the British Dominions, and occupied European or neutral countries
  • The RAF lost 1,023 planes and the Luftwaffe lost 1,887 planes in the battle

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