CT2 copySir Michael Stear began his flying career as a fighter pilot in 1964 flying Hunters in UK and in the Persian Gulf.  After an exchange tour flying Phantoms with the USAF he commanded two RAF Phantom squadrons before converting to the Harrier.  He served as the station commander at Gutersloh in West Germany before becoming the AOC of No 11 (Fighter) Group at a time when the Tornado F 3 was entering squadron service.  After service in MoD he became the AOC of No 18 (Maritime) Group at the time of the first Gulf War when his Nimrods and Buccaneers deployed for operations.  His final tour before retiring in 1996 was as the Deputy C-in-C Allied Forces Central Europe.  A fine rugby player, he represented Cambridge University, the RAF, Combined Services and Hampshire.  He played against the 1963 All Blacks.  He was 81 when he died on January 5.

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Jennings hunter copyJohn Jennings was a Cold War fighter pilot throughout his career in the RAF.  At the end of WW 2 he flew Mustangs in Palestine before converting  to jets, initially Vampires from Odiham.  After an exchange tour with the USAF flying Sabres he served at the Central Fighter Establishment.  He converted to the Hunter before taking command of the Strike Wing at RAF Khormaksar.  He led many strikes during the Radfan campaign when he was awarded the DFC. As a group captain he commanded RAF Coltishall with Lightnings.  After six years in NATO appointments, he retired from the RAF in 1979.

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Mounsdon-portrait1-optWith the death of Flight Lieutenant Maurice Mounsdon aged 101, there are just three surviving Battle of Britain veterans.  He joined No 56 Squadron at North Weald in June 1940 and over the next two months he destroyed two enemy fighters, probably destroyed two others and also claimed two damaged.  On 31 August he was scrambled and attacked a fighter escorting a force of bombers.  His Hurricane was hit from behind, set on fire and Mounsdon baled out.  Badly burned about his legs and arms, he became a Guinea Pig and spent almost two years recovering.  He spent the rest of the war as a flying instructor and left the RAF in 1946.  After retiring as an engineer, he left for Menorca where he spent the rest of his life.

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Paton 3 left back POW Baseball Team front large copyCanadian navigator Bill Paton was shot down in his 431 Squadron Wellington near Mannheim in April 1943 and sent to Stalag Luft III.  During the building of the tunnels for ‘The Great Escape’ he helped disperse the waste sand .  An expert baseball pitcher, he arranged matches to divert the attention of the guards and the activity on the field helped to spread the spoil dropped by the ‘penguins’ from the pouches suspended down the legs of their trousers.  In late January 1945, the PoWs were forced to march west in terrible weather in an ordeal that became known as ‘The Long March’. In the photograph of the Canadian PoW’s baseball team, Paton is 3rd from the left in the back row.

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6_19-A_lancaster copyJo Lancaster was the first man to use a British ejector seat in an emergency when he was forced to abandon his out-of-control experimental jet.He had been an apprentice at Armstrong Whitworth before going the RAF and a training as a pilot.  He flew 30 bombing operations in Wellingtons with No. 40 Squadron before becoming an instructor.  He returned to operations on Lancaster with 12 Squadron and was awarded the DFC.  After training as a test pilot he joined Saunders Roe – where he flew the Saro SR-1 jet-powered flying boat fighter.  He moved to Armstrong Whitworth and on his third flight in the AW-52 “Flying Wing”, the aircraft oscillated violently during a dive and Lancaster ejected using the Martin Baker Mk 1 seat.  He continued testing fighters and later flew air survey and mapping flights for a private company.  He was 100 years old when he died in August.

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Taylor PPW copy 2Peter Taylor was a Cold War fighter pilot.  Early in his career flying Hunters he was a member of the Blue Diamonds aerobatic team before a tour on No. 8 Squadron based in Aden.  He saw action along the Yemeni border and flew strikes against dissident targets during the final British withdrawal from Aden in November 1967.  After conversion to the Harrier he joined No. IV Squadron in Germany.  He was forced to eject after a bird strike and was astonished when the Harrier flew away and climbed to 20,000 feet before crashing.  He commanded No. ! Squadron and saw service in Belize and was the station commander at RAF Bruggen with four Jaguar squadrons.  He retired in 1987 and worked for British Aerospace before organising the Farnborough Air Show during his time with SBAC.

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Hart DFC copyJohn Hart, who has died aged 102, was the last surviving Canadian Battle of Britain pilot.  He joined No. 602 Squadron in September 1940 and saw action over the English Channel when he shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 109 and shared in the destruction of a Junkers 88 bomber.  He went on to fly Hurricanes in Burma on ground attack sorites before taking command of No. 67 Squadron escorting bomber and airborne supply operations.  In March 1945 he joined No. 112 Squadron in Italy to fly the Mustang.  He took over as the CO and led formations against rail and road communications and attacked bridges in northern Italy, Yugoslavia and southern Austria.  He was awarded the DFC and returned to live in Vancouver.

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