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Hero airman praises all who fought in the Battle of Britain 80 years ago

‘True professional’: John ‘Paddy’ Hemingway, pictured in 1945, flew Hurricanes for 85 Squadron.

THE last surviving member of ‘The Few’ — the airmen whose heroism in the Battle of Britain will be marked in 80th anniversary celebrations today — has praised all the ‘true professionals’ who helped the country defeat Germany.

Gp Capt John ‘Paddy’ Hemingway, now aged 101, sees himself as ‘a lucky Irishman’ after surviving being shot down four times in World War II.

But he said: ‘We should applaud all those who fought during those difficult months, not just the pilots.’

Lucky Irishman: Gp Capt Hemingway

The 85 Squadron veteran, who retired to Wicklow in Ireland, was among 3,000 pilots who took to the skies in Spitfires and Hurricanes to fight against Hitler’s Luftwaffe for control over the Channel from July to October 1940.

Some 544 RAF airmen and 312 ground crew lost their lives during the battle.

Flying into battle: Spitfire fighter planes in formation over the Channel PICTURES: RAF/ PA Wire

The pilots became known as ‘The Few’ after prime minister Winston Churchill declared: ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’ Gp Capt Hemingway, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery, said: ‘We would not have prevailed unless everyone were true professionals.’

Union and RAF flags will be flown today at Buckingham Palace to pay tribute and the annual Westminster Abbey service is due to take place on Sunday.