Page 3 Profile: William Walker, Battle of Britain pilot


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The Independent Culture

A war hero?

Oh yes. Flight-Lieutenant William Walker, the oldest surviving Battle of Britain veteran, died on Sunday aged 99 after suffering a stroke. The former Spitfire pilot, born in Hampstead, north London, was 25 when he joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1938. The Battle of Britain began two years later – in the summer of 1940.

What's his war story?

Hitler had taken France, and was keen to disable Britain's air forces to clear the way for invasion. Walker was sent to intercept Luftwaffe bombers, but was shot down and baled out over the Channel with a bullet lodged in his ankle. He was brought ashore, and later reported that as the surgeon prised the bullet from his leg, it shot out and hit the ceiling. He then helped to co-ordinate aircraft protection, and after the war he returned to his job at a brewery. It could have all ended so differently. Some 544 RAF pilots and crew were killed during the battle.

So it's important to remember them

Winston Churchill famously said of the Battle of Britain: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." Mr Walker did his part, and wrote poetry about his war experiences. His poem "Absent Friends" says it best: "Remember those not here today, and those unwell so far away, and those who never lived to see the end of war and victory."