Air Commodore James Linter, Air Attaché at the British Embassy in Washington, DC and Honorary Group Captain Kevin Billings, President of the Billy Fiske Foundation present a limited edition lithograph of Philip West’s painting ‘Comrades in Arms’ to US Air Force Chief of Staff, General CQ Brown on 17 August, the 80th Anniversary of the day Billy Fiske died. The painting depicts Pilot Officer Billy Fiske and 601 Squadron Officer Commanding, Squadron Leader Max Aitkens flying a patrol near RAF Tangmere 13 July 1940.
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Eighty years ago, a young Royal Air Force fighter pilot called Billy Fiske was buried at Boxgrove Priory church in Sussex, one of the prettiest corners of southern England. He’d died of wounds sustained flying a Hawker Hurricane in the Battle of Britain. Nothing especially unusual about that — sadly, some 1,500 RAF aircrew perished in that epic struggle against the Luftwaffe. But if you had been in that medieval church that day, you would have noticed something rather unusual about this funeral. For Fiske’s coffin was draped with two flags — the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes.
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On the first day of the Gulf War, the breath caught in my throat as I unplugged from the large Victor air-to-air refueling tanker, in my Tornado F3. Many details of that mission have faded, while others are as clear in my mind now as they were then.
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I got into bronze sculpting for the love of immortalising not only someone anatomically but also to capture someones personality in an otherwise lifeless material. The excitement only grows for me when I have the challenge of sculpting someone as prestigious as Billy Fiske.
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As we come upon the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies published a paper by Kevin Billings taking a look back and a look forward at the RAF 80 Years on from the Battle of Britain.
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