Spitfire veterans with BBMF Spitfire Mk IX MK356

Fighter pilot veterans visit the BBMF

Header image: The veterans with BBMF Spitfire Mk IX MK356. Left to right: Martin Nicholson (ATA pilot), Tom Clark (Mosquito navigator), John Pilkington (Hurricanes and Spitfires), OC BBMF, Tom Carter (Spitfires and Hawker Typhoons), Eddie Habberley (Spitfires). (All photos: Craig Sluman)

Today the surviving veterans of World War Two are getting fewer and fewer, but as part of its strongly held commitment and allegiance to veterans, the BBMF actively seeks out surviving wartime RAF aircrew and ground crew and invites them to visit the Flight. The driving force behind the organisation of these occasions is Mrs Diane Law-Crookes, the BBMF Administrative Assistant, who makes contact with veterans and ensures that their day at the BBMF is as enjoyable as possible. Meanwhile, the BBMF aircrew love to spend time with the veterans and hear their stories.

The most recent visit by veterans to the BBMF occurred on Friday 20th January when four ex-fighter pilots and a Mosquito navigator were hosted by the Flight: John Pilkington flew Hurricanes and Spitfires and is about to celebrate his 100th birthday. Tom Carter flew Spitfires and Hawker Typhoons. Eddie Habberley operated Spitfires in the Far East, in India and Burma. Martin Nicholson had been an Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) ferry pilot who flew and delivered many types of aircraft including Hurricanes, Spitfires, P-51 Mustangs and Fairey Swordfish biplanes. Tom Clark, meanwhile, was a navigator on DH Mosquitos.

Veterans visit the BBMF
Left: John Pilkington and Martin Nicholson swap stories with BBMF fighter pilots Flt Lt Andy Preece (at the back) and ‘Parky’ Parkinson (right of picture). Right: More stories being told in the hangar with OC BBMF, Sqn Ldr Andy ‘Milli’ Millikin.

BBMF fighter pilots Flight Lieutenants ‘Parky’ Parkinson and Andy Preece helped to host the veterans and enjoyed chatting with them, looking at their photos and log books and picking up some tips. OC BBMF, Squadron Leader Andy ‘Milli’ Millikin, took the veterans on a tour of the BBMF aircraft in the hangar where more stories were exchanged and the group also met the RAF Coningsby Station Commander, Group Captain Mike Baulkwill.

After lunch the veterans visited No 29 Squadron and were able to view a Eurofighter Typhoon at close quarters, discovering how much things have changed since their day.

Spitfire pilot veterans at the BBMF
Left: Given half a chance…! Spitfire pilot Eddie Habberley. Right: With a 29 Sqn Eurofighter Typhoon.

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