The last fighter ace of the Battle of Britain has died, leaving only two of The Few alive.
Wing Commander Paul Farnes DFM, died peacefully at his home in Hampshire on Tuesday morning at the age of 101.
One of 3,000 Allied airmen who fought in the Battle of Britain, Mr Farnes was the last surviving ace — pilots credited with bringing down five or more enemy aircraft.
His death leaves only two living members of the so-called Few, the heroic RAF pilots who defended Britain’s skies against Nazi invasion during the Second World War.
A supporter of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust, Mr Farnes was the last airman fit enough to attend the annual Memorial Day earlier this year.
During the war he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal, the highest honour given to non-officers.
“You could never make friends during the battle because they didn’t last long enough,” he said in 2018.
“It was nothing unusual for a chap to turn up at the squadron and be killed the same day.”
After joining the RAF in 1939, Mr Farnes began flying Hurricanes and joined 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.
Mr Farnes once told how he shot down a Junkers Ju 88 bomber and then landed near where the German aircraft had crashed. One crewmember was dead, but the pilot had survived.
“I landed and the commanding officer [at the air station] took me over to meet the pilot. I went to shake hands with him but he wouldn’t shake hands,” Mr Farnes told the Times.
Mr Farnes’ Battle of Britain tally was remarkable – six destroyed, one probably destroyed and six damaged – 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. At the end of the war, he was in command of two squadrons in the UK.
Remaining in the RAF until 1958, Mr Farnes retired as a Squadron Leader, retaining the rank of Wing Commander, and later ran a hotel in Worthing, Sussex.
He leaves a daughter, Linda, and son Jonathan. Another son, Nicholas, died in 1954.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust paid tribute to Mr Farnes, describing him as 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,” a spokesman said.
“He was also very proud of the DFM he was awarded as a Sergeant Pilot, declaring.. that he “wouldn’t swap it for two DFCs”.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column. If you have additional information or photographs to add to this Obituary please contact us. We also seek to commemorate all those not published by The Daily Telegraph and would be pleased to receive your contributions. Article prepared by Barry Howard.