'Forgotten' war hero makes his mark at last

Battle of Britain pilot's name is added to memorial after daughter's detective work
  • @tompeck

"Never in the field of human conflict," said Winston Churchill of the Allied pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain, "was so much owed by so many to so few."

Yesterday that "few" – 2,936, to be exact – rose by one, as a supposedly forgotten Second World War pilot had his name added to the Battle of Britain monument in London. Charles Ogilvy flew Spitfires during that most famous of battles, and later, as a squadron leader, brought prisoners of war back home to Britain.

But when his daughter, Susan, paid a visit to the monument, unveiled in 2005 opposite the London Eye, she noticed her father's name was not amongst the almost 3,000 British and Allied pilots remembered there. She then began a lengthy quest to gather enough information to make sure he was rightly honoured for his service. That quest came to an end yesterday.

The 67-year-old from Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, said: "I am grateful that my father's name has been added and that he will be honoured along with all those other young men who fought for their country. My father became a squadron leader and although he never talked about the war, it is right that his name appears on the memorial as it is something for our family to be proud of."

Sqn Ldr Ogilvy, a father of three, died of cancer in February 1995 at the age of 79. It was only upon the subsequent death of his widow that his daughter came to examine his war medals and saw among them the rare Battle of Britain clasp, issued exclusively to aircrew who fought in the Battle of Britain.

Sqn Ldr Ogilvy joined 610 Squadron in October 1940 at the age of 24, weeks before the end of the four-month battle that marked the first of the war's many turning points. But he flew two operational sorties that month, qualifying him for the award.

Mrs Ogilvy hired a professional researcher to examine the squadron's operational record book at the Kew Public Records Office, who discovered his details had been lost. Using Sqn Ldr Ogilvy's logbooks as evidence, she was able to prove that he did deserve to have his name on the monument.

Mrs Ogilvy said: "My father was a very modest person and would have thought 'what a fuss'. He never talked about anything to do with the war. He died without anyone knowing anything about this, and it must have been a very difficult time for a lot of young men. I think he deserves to have his name there and I am very proud to have done this for him."

Edward McManus, who compiled the list of names to be originally included on the monument, said: "As time went by after the monument was unveiled, there were several approaches to say that we had made mistakes but none were substantiated. That was until Mrs Ogilvy got in touch. We are delighted to be able to honour the bravery of Sqn Ldr Ogilvy in this way."

Sqn Ldr Ogilvy's work during the war, which also included taking part in a humanitarian operation in the Netherlands to drop food to starving Dutch people, was honoured thanks to Westminster City Council and its transport contractors, FM Conway, who paid for his name to be added.

Councillor Robert Davis, deputy leader of the council, said: "We are honoured to be able to pay tribute to a forgotten hero who was one of the many exceptional people whose sacrifice ensured that good triumphed over evil during our country's darkest days."

Sqn Ldr Ogilvy, who was born in Kelso in the Scottish borders, later became a flying instructor at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire and returned to work in the insurance business after the war. He retired in 1985 and was a church warden in Walton-on-the-Hill, Surrey, where he had settled in 1960.