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Battle of Britain pilot to join Prince William for memorial flight anniversary

PUBLISHED: 10:03 09 July 2017 | UPDATED: 10:03 09 July 2017

Tom Neil, who was a Battle of Britain pilot. Picture: Nick Butcher.

Tom Neil, who was a Battle of Britain pilot. Picture: Nick Butcher.

Archant © 2017

Tom Neil flew 157 times during the Battle of Britain, shooting down 13 enemy aircraft.

Tom Neil, who was a Battle of Britain pilot, attended RAF Coningsby to mark the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Mr Neil, pictured fifth from left, with his crew. Picture: Nick Butcher. Tom Neil, who was a Battle of Britain pilot, attended RAF Coningsby to mark the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Mr Neil, pictured fifth from left, with his crew. Picture: Nick Butcher.

And the 97-year-old, now one of the last remaining pilots of the battle, is set to remember his fallen comrades once more as he visits Lincolnshire to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight alongside Prince William.

Mr Neil, of Thwaite St Mary, near Bungay, flew mostly Hurricanes in the aerial battle in 1940, and shot down 13 enemy aircraft.

He said: “I joined my first fighter squadron in 1940 when I was 19 and I saw my first enemy aircraft later that year.

“During the 16 weeks of the Battle of Britain, I flew 157 times against the enemy and I was very fortunate I didn’t get badly wounded. But I lost four Hurricanes in the course of that time - one of whom was with Nicolson who won the only Victoria Cross in flight command in the Second World War.”

Hurricane pilot Tom Neil attended the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Picture: Nick Butcher. Hurricane pilot Tom Neil attended the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Picture: Nick Butcher.

Tuesday, July 11, marks the 60th anniversary of the memorial flight which will see Prince William meet veterans at RAF Coningsby.

Mr Neil said: “It is going to have a big flying display that will occur in the afternoon and a big dinner party in the evening which I’m not attending because I’m too old, and it will be a glorious day out.

“They’ve got a Hurricane down there which they have painted in my colours and I am going to stand in front of it and look pretty.”

Mr Neil has met Prince Charles and Prince William several times before, and first met The Queen at Duxford when she was just 13-years-old.

And in 2015, he appeared on Prince Harry’s Christmas Card after meeting him at an event to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Mr Neil left the air force aged 24 and married his late wife Eileen, who had her own distinguished RAF career. Together they have three sons.

Last year he collected his Legion d’Honneur during D-Day commemorations in France, and his other medals include the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Force Cross.

He has also written seven books about the battle and his experiences.

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