Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Oldest Surviving Battle of Britain Pilot Passes Away
The oldest surviving Battle of Britain pilot, who was shot down in his Spitfire and wounded in 1940, has died aged 99. Flight Lieutenant William Walker, born in Hampstead, north London, suffered a stroke last Thursday and died in hospital on Sunday, the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust said.
Born on August 24 1913, Mr Walker joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve on September 2 1938 at Kidlington, Oxford, and flew his first solo there a few days later. He was called up for full-time service on September 1 1939 and posted to Cambridge on November 15. He went to Brize Norton on February 17 1940 and, at the end of the course, was commissioned and posted directly to 616 Squadron at Leconfield on June 18.
During the late morning of August 26 1940, a large German bomber force, with heavy fighter escort, was heading towards targets in England including the RAF fighter stations at Kenley and Biggin Hill. The force was engaged over Kent and the coast by Defiants, Hurricanes and Spitfires. At Kenley, Spitfires from No 616 (South Yorkshire) Squadron were scrambled to the Dover/Dungeness area and found themselves in a fight with Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Mr Walker's plane was hit and badly damaged and he bailed out, landing in the Channel with a bullet in his right ankle. Mr Walker clung to a shipwreck on the Goodwin Sands before being rescued by a fishing boat, transferred to an RAF launch and brought ashore at Ramsgate, where he was greeted by a large crowd and presented with a packet of cigarettes by an elderly woman.
In later life, Mr Walker enjoyed recounting the story of how, as the surgeon prised the armour-piercing bullet from his ankle during his stay at the RAF Hospital in Halton, it shot out and hit the ceiling. He kept the bullet as a souvenir. After recovering from his wound, Mr Walker's postings included joining a squadron engaged in anti-aircraft co-operation duties and one with the Sector Gunnery Flight at Gatwick. Mr Walker had celebrated his 27th birthday two days before he was shot down. He began his business career in 1931 as a pupil brewer at the Aylesbury Brewery, learning brewing, malting, bottling and cooperage. Two years later, he joined Ind Coope's brewery in Burton and after the war rose to become its chairman.
Mr Walker attended numerous events with and on behalf of The Few, including the 2012 Memorial Day at Capel-le-Ferne. He donated the proceeds from his book of poetry to the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust's appeal to raise money for The Wing, its new visitor centre, and signed many copies.
Richard Hunting CBE, chairman of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust, said:
"Flight Lieutenant William Walker was a warm, engaging and friendly man who always had a twinkle in his eye. He worked hard for the trust and gave freely of his time to help with fundraising for The Wing - which is the trust's planned new building at the Capel-le-Ferne site of the national memorial to The Few. He was much loved by his fellow veterans, his family and friends and all of us at the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. He was regularly prevailed upon to recite one of his poems at trust events and signed many copies of his book to help raise money for The Wing. He knew how important it was that we continue to tell the story of what he and the rest of the Few did in 1940."
Posted by Shadow at 2:33 AM