Irish war veteran is one of just six surviving pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain

Irish war veteran is one of just six surviving pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain

JOHN HEMINGWAY, who grew up in Dublin, is one of the last remaining RAF pilots who served during the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Hemingway, who was thought to be dead, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery after he was shot down four times during World War Two.

3,000 British and Irish pilots fought Nazi Germany for air superiority in a battle which raged on for over three months.

Of that number, just six are still alive.

Hemingway - Far left - in 1940

Hemingway, who will turn 100-years-old in July, began training with the RAF in 1938.

At the outbreak of the war, he was posted to France and downed his first plane in May 1940.

Over the course of the way, Hemingway’s Hurricane was shot out of the sky four times, and four times he survived.

He had to jump for his life after battling German aircraft in the skies above London. He landed in the sea, just off the Essex coast, unscathed and ready to get back in the air.

By 1945 he was flying Spitfires over Italy, surviving one of his crashes there after bailing out once his plane was damaged by ground-fire.

He continued to serve in the RAF until 1969 when he retired as Group Captain.

Hemingway now lives in a nursing home on the outskirts of Dublin following the death of his wife, Bridget.

His son, Brian, 66, says that his father isn’t interested in accolades or praise, but rather enjoys being known as the last Irishman alive to serve in the Battle of Britain.

“He’s not particularly interested in the past. Like so many of his generation, he doesn’t feel as though he did anything special,” said Brian.

“But he likes the idea he’s one of the last (few pilots) and he’s tickled by the fact that he’s the last known Irishman to have fought in the Battle of Britain.

“He’s loved and he’s not forgotten and that’s the way he likes it.”

The aerial campaign, which saw RAF pilots defend the airspace above Britain from large-scale attacks from the German Luftwaffe, is seen as one of the most important Allied victories during the war.

Defeat would’ve made a Nazi ground-invasion a very real and likely threat, but victory in the skies for the RAF was one of the biggest turning points in the war.

As Winston Churchill famously put it: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”