Menu Donate Request our help

"We could have lost the war"

Spitfire pilot Ken Wilkinson remembers how close Great Britain came to disaster during the Battle of Britain.

A teenage Ken and his friends knew their lives were about to change dramatically as the Second World War broke out in Europe. They prepared for that change by bravely stepping up to fight for their country.

Battle of Britain veteran Ken Wilkinson

He said: "In one sense it is embarrassing really, because we were doing a job. We knew perfectly well before the war that there was going to be a war and so we prepared ourselves by joining whatever service we joined.

"Some of us joined the RAF and some of us joined the RAF Volunteer Reserves."

More than 3,000 young men joined in the battle for supremacy in the skies over Great Britain and Ken was one of the lucky ones.

Sadly 544 of his comrades did not survive the Battle of Britain and a further 814 were killed before the end of the war.

Ken is rather matter-of-fact about the dangers he faced, as a Spitfire pilot.

He said: "All we knew was that England was being bombed by Germany and we did not want that to happen. So we did our best to stop them bombing this country and we managed to hold them back long enough.

"Then they decided that bombing our airfields was not giving them enough results because they were being shot down and they started bombing London at night and that allowed our airfields to be able to recover and we were able to continue fighting.

"I do not think people understand that had we not been able to use our own airfields we could have lost the battle and therefore the war because there was nothing left.

"It was a war and you went off and whatever awaited you, well that was it. We were at war it was not a picnic, and people were killed and people were not killed. So when you went off you did not know whether you were going to live or not."

Visit the Battle of Britain homepage

0800 169 2942

Sign up to receive the RAFBF e-newsletter