Thursday 26th September 2019
On Sunday, September 15, to mark the 79th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and Battle of Britain Day, 97-year-old Second World War veteran George Dunn took to the skies above England once more, to fly in a Spitfire.
A chance meeting between George, who last flew a Spitfire in 1947, and trainee pilot Flight Lieutenant Dan Whatmough at Bournemouth Air Show, inspired Dan to arrange the flight in thanks for George’s service and his fundraising for the RAF’s leading welfare charity, the RAF Benevolent Fund.
A pilot during the Second world War, George flew Mosquitos and Halifax bombers, completing 44 operations. He continued his flying after the end of the war, and as a test pilot flew a number of different aircraft including the Spitfire. In recent years, George has spent his summers touring air shows in the UK, raising tens of thousands of pounds for the Fund with appearances and book signings.
Now he is backing the Fund’s centenary campaign to double the number of people it helps by asking the British public to “Join the Search. Change a Life”, asking people to think about who they know who may have served in the RAF and may now need support.
On completing his first flight in a Spitfire in 72 years, he said:
“I could have done with a little bit longer up there!”
Flt Lt Whatmough, who is training at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, coordinated George’s trip to Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar after discovering they had both served on 76 Squadron and they signed up at the same RAF careers office in Chatham, albeit 63 years apart.
“Meeting George was an absolute honour. The fact that we are able to help the Fund renew its call for the British public to help get RAF veterans in need back on their radar, is the icing on the cake.
“As soon as I found out about George’s service and his incredible support for the RAF Family through his fundraising for the Fund, I was determined to repay him for his service. And what better day to do that, than Battle of Britain Day – when we remember the Few who gave their all for the many.”
The RAF Benevolent Fund’s centenary campaign was launched following research which identified there are up to 100,000, mainly older, members of the RAF Family in urgent need of support but are not seeking it. The Fund found potential beneficiaries are often reluctant to ask for help, or come forward too late, due to feelings of pride, or a belief that ‘someone else deserves the support more’. They sometimes need friends and family to encourage them to get ‘back on the radar’ and accessing support from the Fund that is rightfully theirs.
Air Vice-Marshal David Murray, Chief Executive of the RAF Benevolent Fund, said:
“We must never forget the sacrifices of The Few, without who the Second World War may have turned out very differently. They defended Britain at an incredibly perilous time. Many gave their lives, while those who survived were often left physically or mentally scarred. We are all indebted to them.
“Sadly, very few of this generation remain with us. However, our duty is not over. Since the Battle of Britain, many other generations have served, including the hundreds of thousands who undertook National Service. The youngest of whom is now 75. It is all of our responsibility to help them, in their time of need, so we’re asking their friends or relatives to help us encourage them to seek support.
“We must reach them and their partners, before it’s too late.”
To refer someone to the RAF Benevolent Fund, go to rafbf.org or call 0300 102 1919.