One of the last surviving members of The Few – the pilots who defended the country in the Battle of Britain during World War II – has died.
Flight Lieutenant Maurice Mounsdon died on Friday aged 101, family members said.
"He was a great man and will be missed by his nephews and nieces," nephew Adrian Mounsdon told the Daily Mirror.
Mr Mounsdon's passing leaves only three remaining members of The Few, the 3,000 airmen who fought off the Luftwaffe in the skies above southern England over three-and-a-half months in 1940.
The surviving trio are Flt Lt William Clark, 100, Wing Commander Paul Farnes, 101, and Flying Officer John Hemingway, 100.
Mr Mounsdon was honoured on his 100th birthday in September last year with a flyover by the Red Arrows off the coast of the Spanish island of Menorca, where he had lived since the late 1970s since retiring there with his wife Mary, who died in 1993.
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The Battle of Britain claimed the lives of 544 RAF pilots and aircrew.
The three-and-a-half month battle in 1940 would claim the lives of 544 RAF pilots and aircrew. Pilots’ average life expectancy was just four weeks.
Maurice, with 56 Squadron, nearly became one of that number in the August when his Hawker Hurricane took off from RAF North Weald in Essex.
The 22-year-old had already shot down four enemy aircraft in fierce dogfights. He recalled the moment he was hit by a cannon shell from a Messerschmitt 109 while over Colchester.
Despite severe burns to his arms and legs, Maurice was able to flip his plane and bail out.
He said: “I was on fire. There was only one thing to do and that was to get out as fast as possible.
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“I was badly burned, but I rolled the aircraft over and came down by parachute from 14,000ft.
“I was conscious all the time. It was the first time I’d used a parachute. I think I was jolly lucky, in a way.”
He was rescued by local people and taken to hospital, where he would meet his future wife, Mary.
While convalescing in hospital he underwent pioneering skin grafts performed by Archibald McIndoe, the founder of the patient support group Guinea Pig Club.
Maurice, originally from Lichfield, Staffs, married Mary in 1941 and spent the rest of the Second World War as a flight instructor.
The couple, who never had children, moved to the Spanish island of Menorca in the late 70s. Mary died in 1993 and Maurice passed away on Friday.
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His nephew Adrian told the Daily Mirror: “He was a great man and will be missed by his nephews and nieces.”
Three of The Few are alive: Flt Lt William Clark, 100, originally from Croydon, South London, Wing Co Paul Farnes, 101, of West Sussex, and Dublin-born Flying Officer John Hemingway, 100.
Winston Churchill summed up their bravery when he said: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
John Pulfer, of the Battle of Britain Historical Society, said: “They didn’t know when they left the ground if they would be coming back. Their stories are incredible."
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