Header images: Left: Ken Wilkinson.
Right: A rather moving picture of former OC BBMF, Sqn Ldr Ian ‘Smithy’ Smith MBE (now serving with No 29 Sqn at Coningsby) with an ailing Ken Wilkinson at the BBMF 60th anniversary event on 11th July 2017. (photo: RAF Coningsby Photo Section © Crown Copyright)
The BBMF is sad to report the death of one of its great friends and one of the last surviving members of ‘The Few’, Ken Wilkinson, who died on 31st July 2017, aged 99, less than three weeks after attending the BBMF 60th anniversary event at RAF Coningsby.
Ken Wilkinson was born on on 29th June 1918 at Barrow-in-Furness. He joined the RAFVR in March 1939. With his flying training completed and after converting to Spitfires he joined No 616 Squadron at Kirton-in-Lindsey on 1st October 1940, as a Sergeant Pilot, moving to 19 Squadron at Fowlmere on 17th October. He was posted away to 56 OTU Sutton Bridge on 27th January 1941 as an instructor. On 23rd October he joined 1488 Flight at Shoreham. Then on 10th May 1942 he was sent on a course at the Central Gunnery School at Sutton Bridge, to become a pilot gunnery instructor, after which he was posted to 11 Group Practice Camp at Martlesham Heath. A further instructional tour of duty with 61 OTU at Rednal followed before, after a refresher course on Spitfires, he joined 234 Squadron at Skeabrae, Orkney, in April 1943, and then moved to 165 Squadron at Ibsley on 8th July. From December 1943 he saw the war out as an instructor.
Ken was released from the RAF in November 1945 as a Flying Officer. He became a Quantity Surveyor in civilian life and lived in the same house he had bought with his wife, Josephine, in 1951. Recently Ken’s health had deteriorated and he had become virtually blind.
As anyone who had met him will know, Ken was a real character with a great sense of fun, never afraid of speaking his mind. He will be missed, but BBMF Spitfire Mk IIa P7350 will continue to carry the 19 Squadron code letters ‘QV-E’ in his honour for the 2017 display season.