Battle of Britain pilot who told off Prince William for flying ‘choppers’ dies aged 99
BBMF says friend Kenneth Wilkinson will not be forgotten
A veteran Battle of Britain Spitfire pilot who jokingly rebuked Prince Williams for flying “choppers” and not “proper aeroplanes” has died aged 99.
Kenneth Wilkinson, who served in 616 and 19 Squadrons during the war, died on Monday, July 31 and is survived by a daughter, Penny, and grandson Piers.
Mr Wilkinson, one of the fighter pilots referred to as ‘The Few’ by Churchill who staved off Hitler’s invasion of Britain in 1940, told the Duke of Cambridge what he thought of helicopter pilots during a visit to RAF Coningsby.
The Prince enjoyed some lively banter with Mr Wilkinson during a visit to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at the base in September 2015 during the 75th anniversary year of the Battle of Britain.
Aviation photographer Craig Sluman posted on the BBMF Facebook page on July 31: “Very sad to learn that Ken Wilkinson has passed away this morning. RIP Ken Blue Skies Sir.”
Mr Wilkinson, who once flew under the command of RAF ace Sir Douglas Bader, proudly spoke to the Echo in 2015 about the support for veterans by the Royal family.
He said: “William’s grandfather has come to a great number of functions, his father Charles has entertained us on many occasions, and now William is here.”
Mr Wilkinson, who was a quantity surveyor after the war and was a member of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association, lived in the West Midlands.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust said: “We shall miss him dearly.”
Retired group captain Patrick Tootal told the BBC: “He always had a twinkle in his eye, and he liked a glass of red wine. We would always have a joke about it.”
Mr Wilkinson officially opened a new £4m holiday complex at Tattershall Lakes in June 2016 which includes a full-size Spitfire replica in The Spitfire Bar.
It has the same livery and tail number as the aircraft that Mr Wilkinson flew.
Mr Wilkinson wiped away tears as he stood up to speak to the assembled crowd.
Describing the Spitfire, he said: “There never was a better aircraft ever in my age. It was an absolute cracker, a lady.
“Just imagine the sheer guts to have flown an aircraft at 17 years old. It takes some doing.
“On September 1, 1939, I wrote myself off. I thought, ‘you have got no chance of lasting through whatever it is going to be’, because it was quite obvious that the way the Germans were moving, they were going to make a hell of a war out of it.
“So, I was ready for war. It is your country. You die for your country.
“It just so happens I am still alive, I suppose. There are so few of us left now. There are only about four or five Battle of Britain pilots who are active.
“There are others tucked away somewhere.”
Mr Wilkinson met the Prince again at Coningsby in July this year during a visit to mark the 60th anniversary of the BBMF.
A spokesman said: “Ken Wilkinson was a larger-than-life character and a fighter pilot of whom we were extremely fond.
“We are so pleased he came to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s 60th anniversary on July, 11 where he met The Duke of Cambridge again and had his photo taken next to Spitfire P7350, which has been painted on the starboard side with the code letters ‘QV-E’ to commemorate the 19 Sqn Spitfire that he flew during the Battle of Britain.
“As the Few become fewer, we are proud and honoured to count him as a friend. He will not be forgotten.”
Source: lincolnshirelive co uk
Tags: Ken Wilkinson, Dies, Sorry, Sad News, Prince William, William and Wilkinson, Aviation photographer Craig Sluman, A veteran Battle of Britain Spitfire pilot