'Inspirational' Battle of Britain pilot dies hours after celebrating 100th birthday

A full life: McInnes died surrounded by friends and family. Right, as a young man

A “hero” Battle of Britain veteran has died hours after celebrating his 100th birthday.

His death takes the number of surviving members of The Few, airmen of the Royal Air Force who fought in the battle in 1940, to five.

Archie McInnes, who flew Hurricanes in the skies over southern England, completed his pilot training aged 21 and was commissioned the day after.

McInnes, who lost his left arm in 1941, died hours after celebrating his 100th birthday on Wednesday, his biographer said.

Jonny Cracknell, also a good friend of McInnes, wrote on Twitter: “It is with a heavy heart and incredible sadness to advise the tragic news that Battle of Britain hero Archie McInnes sadly passed away last night, just hours after celebrating his 100th birthday amongst friends and family.

“An inspiration and hero of a man – rest in peace dear Archie.”

Veteran: Archie McInnes flew Hurricanes over the skies of southern England

He had earlier written to wish Flight Lieutenant McInnes a happy birthday, noting that he was the “last of the six remaining Battle of Britain ‘Few’ to become a centenarian”.

Those who fought in the three-and-a-half-month Battle of Britain came to be known as The Few after a speech by prime minister Winston Churchill.

He said of their sacrifices in battle: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

The British victory marked a turning point in the Second World War, but by the end of the battle 544 RAF pilots and aircrew had died.

Brave: McInnes lost his left arm in battle in 1941 (Twitter)

Flight Lieutenant McInnes was born on July 31 1919 and joined the RAF volunteer reserve in 1938, the year before the war broke out.

He completed his pilot training in August 1940 and flew Hurricanes, the most famous fighter aircraft used in the battle, with 601 Squadron in Exeter.

He later moved to 238 Squadron at Chilbolton, Hampshire, on October 8 1940.

After the Battle of Britain ended on October 31 1940 he was on board the HMS Victorious as part of the team hunting for German battleship the Bismarck.

From April 1941, Flt Lt McInnes was part of the North African campaign where he flew various missions including providing cover for bombers.

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"An inspiration": His biographer and friend Jonny Cracknell tweeted a tribute to the veteran (Twitter)

He was shot down by a Messerschmitt fighter plane on October 30 1941 and lost his left arm.


He was released from the RAF in 1946 as a flight lieutenant and eventually retired to village life just outside Cambridge.

Mr Cracknell, who was Flt Lt McInnes’s biographer, wrote on his website that it was a “huge privilege helping gain Archie some long-overdue recognition as a hero”.

Mc Innes marked his 99th birthday last year by taking to the skies in a refurbished Spitfire.

Tribute: The official Twitter account for the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight said he was a "charming and fascinating man" (Twitter)

The RAF Battle of Britain memorial Flight also posted a tribute to McInnes.

They wrote: “Archie McInnes, a one-armed Hurricane pilot, back in his beloved steed after a mere 74 years.

Archie flew Hurricanes with 601 and 238 Sqns. He lost his arm after being shot down in North Africa but returned to fly the Hurricane.

“A charming, modest and fascinating man.”

The last member of the Few to die was Wing Commander Tim Elkington, aged 98, who died after a fall in February last year.

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