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Tributes paid to true hero of the skies
A FIGHTER pilot who battled Nazis over the skies of Britain has died at the age of 93.
Flight Lieutenant Richard Jones, of Witney, fought in the Battle of Britain, a conflict in which pilots had a life expectancy of just a week.
The battle took place between July and October 1940 and ensured Hitler’s forces were unable to invade the UK.
His friends and family last night paid tribute to a “very popular” man who loved to fly. He died in his sleep on Tuesday night.
Mr Jones was brought up in Grazeley in Berkshire and joined the RAF reserves in 1938 before the outbreak of war. He was selected for the 19 Squadron in Cambridgeshire, which became the first to fly the legendary Spitfires, and later joined 64 Squadron at RAF Kenley, Greater London. He joined the Battle of Britain on September 16, 1940, after just 17 hours’ flying experience in a Spitfire.
Mr Jones flew up to four raids a day and was shot down by the Luftwaffe while flying over Kent. He was unscathed in the attack and went on to become one of the very few pilots to fly for the entire duration of the Battle of Britain.
In 1941, Mr Jones was posted to the De Havilland Aircraft Company, based in Witney, and test-piloted repaired Spitfires and Hurricanes.
He was awarded six wartime medals and, in 1944, was given the King’s Commendation for valuable services in the air.
After the war, Mr Jones was a sales director at Hartford Motors in Oxford and an usher at Witney Magistrates’ Court.
In 1989, he met and became friends with Gunther Domaschk, a former Luftwaffe fighter pilot who had fought against him during the Battle of Britain.
Mr Jones was a regular feature at Armistice Day services in Witney.
Speaking to the Oxford Mail about his war experiences in 2010, he said: “We knew we were in a pretty grave situation as nobody else was available at the time. We had a pretty good idea we were in for it. We knuckled down and accepted it.”
He leaves three children, Frances, 70, Christopher, 68, and Susan, 59, three grandchildren and three great grandchildren. His wife, Elizabeth, died in 2009. Christopher Jones said: “My father was a very popular and extremely affable gentleman who was liked by everyone.”
Mr Jones’s friend Gordon Clack, 82, of Ducklington, also a former RAF pilot, said: “Richard was a great chap. As a young lad, I would cycle up to the airfield and sit on the boundary wall for hours watching Richard taking off and landing.”
Battle of Britain Fighter Association secretary Patrick Tootal said: “Richard was a great supporter of the fighter association and a great colleague for all the surviving few.”
Mr Tootal said there were now only about 60 veterans of the Battle of Britain still alive.
A funeral service for Mr Jones will take place at High Street Methodist Church in Witney on Friday at 1pm.