Two of Churchill’s “few” entertained a sell-out audience in Shropshire with their memories of the Battle of Britain just days before joining the Queen at Westminster.
Squadron Leader Tony Pickering, 92, and Flying Officer Ken Wilkinson, 95, spoke for nearly two hours in front of more than 70 people at The Shropshire in Muxton.
The exclusive talk was organised by Telford Business Club and attracted the largest number of people in the history of the business networking club.
Mr Pickering recalled how he had “never even seen a Hurricane” before he was called to fly one as a member of the RAF Voluntary Reserves in the battle in 1940.
He paid tribute to the “young WRAF girls” who were on the ground and endured the series of bombings while they flew above. He told how he landed a Spitfire “without an undercarriage and without an engine” but survived to tell the tale. Mr Pickering joked how he remembered the days of the war “as if they were yesterday – despite not being able to remember what happened yesterday”.
The two veterans and long-time friends are two of only a handful of Churchill’s “few” who are still able to travel and tell their story. Mr Wilkinson, who was talking exactly 72 years ago to the day he was shot down and was forced to bail out of his burning plane, said flying a single seater was “glorious”.
The pair recalled their joy and pride at fighting for their country during the invasion which ran from July 10 1940 to September 17 when Hitler postponed “Operation Sealion” – the invasion of Britain as he could not get air superiority.
Terry Le Long, of Nathon Legal Services of Shrewsbury, is ex RAF and chairman of the network club, said: “We were extremely privileged to hear about the incredible time in British history from two incredible guys which received wonderful support from people all over the county.
“More than 70 people listened to their story – you could hear a pin drop as they recalled their days making British history.
“They were quite a comedy duo and what better time to hear their story than during Battle of Britain week.”
Simon Footer MBE, the regional director of the RAF benevolent fund based at RAF Brize Norton, travelled to the event where he thanked the business community for their fundraising support. All profits raised from the event, including a raffle and the selling of books signed by the pilots, will go to the RAF Benevolent Fund.
The two veterans will be commemorating the Battle of Britain at Westminster Abbey with HM the Queen on Friday.
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