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.
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.
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.
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.
I recently retired from the Royal Air Force after a career spanning 37 years which included a lot of time spent alongside personnel from all of the US Services whilst working at the tactical, operational and strategic levels. My first experiences of US forces were operating the Tornado GR1 on US-led multi-national exercises, such as RED FLAG, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Participation in such exercises proved very useful for the events of early 1991 when the Gulf War led to Combined Air Operations against Iraq.