Northampton Battle of Britain veteran dies aged 97 - leaving just seven of The Few remaining

William 'Bob' Hughes - one of the last remaining Battle of Britain veterans - has died aged 97. Here he is pictured with wife Dorothy.
William 'Bob' Hughes - one of the last remaining Battle of Britain veterans - has died aged 97. Here he is pictured with wife Dorothy.

Tributes have been paid to a Northampton man who was one of the last surviving 'Few' - a veteran of the Battle of Britain.

Flight Lieutenant William 'Bob' Hughes, who was born in Northampton and went to Bective Secondary Modern School, passed away on Monday, aged 97.

Mr Hughes in his latter days.

Mr Hughes in his latter days.

The great-grandfather of nine joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as an 18-year-old in the spring of 1939 before going on to serve with the 23 Squadron at RAF Wittering in West Sussex.

Mr Hughes was one of 3,000 men to take to the skies in the Battle of Britain a year later - operating as a rear gunner in a Bristol Blenheim bomber.

His death means there are now just seven veterans left from the Battle of Britain, who became known as 'The Few', following Winston Churchill's wartime address to Parliament.

Paying tribute to him this week, his son Howard, of Hartwell, said: "He was loved by all his grandchildren - he was such a gentleman.

Mr Hughes during his days at British Timken.

Mr Hughes during his days at British Timken.

"He had lots of people who would call to see him - he was a gentleman of the old school."

Mr Hughes completed 73 operations against the enemy during the Second World War and was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for gallantry in 1943.

But for most of his life, the father-of-two worked at the British Timken factory in Duston, joining in 1948 after leaving the RAF.

He went on to spend 32 years at Timken, working as a night shift superintendent and as a factory foreman.

His wife Dorothy sadly passed away, aged 92, and Mr Hughes spent his latter years living with his son in Hartwell.

But Howard, 59, said his father rarely talked about his extraordinary service in the Secon World War.

"He flew 73 operations, which is quite a large number," Howard said.

"A lot of people didn't make it. When he flew in a Blenheim bomber they just had one gun on the back of the plane, there wasn't much defence there.

"He didn't talk about it a great deal. he was a very quiet, unassuming sort of person. He wasn't pushing himself forward as a hero."

The Battle of Britain, fought in 1940, saw the Royal Air Force defend the United Kingdom against large-scale attacks by Nazi Germany's air force, the Luftwaffe.

A total of 544 men lost their lives protecting home shores from the invasion.

During his famous wartime address to Parliament Winston Churchill paid particular tribute to those serving in the RAF bombers, like Mr Hughes.

He said: "We must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with deliberate careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power."

Mr Hughes' funeral will be held at Milton Malsor Crematorium on Friday, December 21, at 12.30pm, which anyone is welcome to attend. Familt flowers only.