Paul Farnes, centre, pictured at Memorial Day 2018. (The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust)

Wing Commander Paul Farnes, DFM, 1918-2020

We are sad to report the passing of Wing Commander Paul Farnes, one of ‘the Few’ and the last Battle of Britain ace, aged 101.

Paul Farnes during a filmed interview. (The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust)

As a Hurricane pilot, he was one of more than 3,000 British, Dominion and Allied pilots to fight in that battle.

Having joined 501 Squadron in September 1939, he deployed to France with the squadron in May 1940 and shot down one enemy aircraft, sharing in the destruction of two others as well as claiming a probable.

During the Battle of Britain itself, Farnes downed a further six Luftwaffe aircraft, securing ace status. His tally comprised three Ju 87 Stukas, two medium bombers, a Do 17 and a Ju 88, and a Bf 109 fighter. He damaged six more aircraft, including two 109s, a Bf 110 twin-engine fighter and an He 111 bomber, and claimed a probable victory against another Bf 109.

This remarkable record led to the award of his DFM on October 22, 1940. As a sergeant pilot, this was the highest award that could be presented to Farnes.

Despite his heroic feats, Farnes remained adamant that he and his comrades were only doing their bit, stating: “I don’t think the average chap was brave at all. He was trained to do a job and did it well.”

Following the Battle of Britain, Farnes became an instructor and then served above Malta and the Mediterranean as well as Iraq with 229 Squadron. He retired from the RAF in 1958.

Historian James Holland tweeted: “Amazing – and sad – to think there are just two left. Paul Farnes was a notable pilot – steely, resolute and most certainly never suffered fools. A forthright fellow if ever there was one! Quite a life that’s for sure.”

Paul Farnes in April 2017 (Courtesy of Mick Dodsworth)

Just two members of the Few remain; William Clark DCM, a Blenheim aircrewman of 219 Squadron, and John Hemingway DFC, an Irish Hurricane pilot of 85 Squadron.

Wing Commander Farnes died peacefully at his home on Tuesday (January 28). He is survived by his daughter and one of his two sons.

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