One of last surviving Battle of Britain veterans dies aged 102
Tributes have been paid to one of the last surviving Battle of Britain veterans who has died aged 102.
Squadron Leader John Hart was one of The Few, the brave men who defeated the Luftwaffe and ensured Germany did not invade Britain.
The Spitfire pilot, who served in 602 Squadron, shot down a German Messerschmitt 109 and shared in two kills on Junkers Ju88 bombers, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross for gallantry.
His death means the number of Battle of Britain heroes left is just four.
They are Flight Lieutenant William Clark, 98, Wing Commander Paul Farnes, 100, Flying Officer John Hemmingway, 99 and Flight Lieutenant Maurice Moundson, 100.
David Brocklehurst MBE, chairman of the Kent Battle of Britain Museum, said: “John was the archetypal Battle of Britain pilot – very modest and self-effacing, the epitome of what they stood for.
"He should be remembered for his bravery. Many of these men said they were not heroes, just doing their duty, but we see them all as heroes. Sadly, they are a dying generation and there are only four of The Few still living.
“It makes it all the more important that we carry on their legacy, as there will be a time when they will no longer be able to do so. What they achieved must never be forgotten.”
Sqn Ldr Hart was born in New Brunswick, Canada, in 1916. An engineer by trade, he learnt to fly at Halifax Flying Club, in Canada, before joining the RAF in January 1939.
He converted to Spitfires, briefly joining 54 Squadron in September 1940, before transferring to 602 Squadron at RAF Westhampnett, in West Sussex, later that month.
He was scrambled on a daily basis over the south coast.
On October 12, he helped shoot down a Ju88 fast bomber off the East Sussex coast and three weeks later, destroyed the Me109 during a duel in the skies over Kent. Then in November, he shared another kill on a Ju88.
There were also several close calls, including one incident when a Junkers put a hole in his radiator at 20,000ft over the English Channel – but he somehow limped back to base.
Recounting his experiences of battle, he said: “You didn’t have time to be scared. You’re thinking about what’s going on.
“I know I have the Battle of Britain medal with a star on it, but I really didn’t have that much to do with it. You were posted to a squadron and you did your job.”
Sqn Ldr Hart then had a stint as a flying instructor, before commanding 67 Squadron in Burma in 1943 and 112 Squadron in Italy in March 1945.
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