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Enough of the visiting spoilt brat wallowing in questionable headlines. I’d prefer to dwell on the life of a real man, a fellow happy to serve his country in time of war, using skill and intelligence to better an enemy intent on destroying Britain.

Good Tom Neil, who died this week, didn’t devote younger years to feathering his nest, but learned to fly and so well that he became a wing commander. In the second world war, he flew at least 140 missions and survived.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Modesty ... Tom Neil, looking back on his life, regrets an imagined lack of determination. It's something we're not likely to hear from another person in the news at the moment.
In combat high over Britain, he is credited with destroying 14 enemy aircraft.

He flew Hurricanes and Spitfires which my father helped design and build.

A Battle of Britain ace

Tom was rated as a Battle of Britain ace, which speaks of his cool. He remained in the air force till 1964.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar and Air Force Cross.

A video of Tom and his memories is - here. Tom Neil lived in Thwaite St Mary, in Norfolk. He met his wife, Eileen, at Biggin Hill, where she was a Women’s Air Force officer. They were married for 70 years.

Compare the following example of his modesty with the chatter of the visiting ego. In a Radio 5 interview, he said that he regretted not performing better when he fought in those aerial battles over England.

‘I chastise myself mentally because I should have done more.’

This genuine and good fellow

He said, ‘There are times when I didn't press home the attack as well as I ought to have done. I should have gone on longer.’

Yes, better today to mourn the passing of this genuine and good fellow than to wave a placard in the face of the dullard who probably sees such things as a variation of high devotion like a form of Beatlemania.

Tom wrote many books - From the Cockpit: Spitfire (Ian Allan Publishing, 1990), Onward to Malta: Memoirs of a Hurricane Pilot in Malta, 1941 (Airlife Publications, 1992), Flight into Darkness (Air Research Publications, 2006), Questions of Guilt and Other Stories: The Stories of Wing Commander Tom Neil (Red Kite Publications, 2008), and many more.

Thanks very much for visiting the blogs for my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory.

Links:
BBC tells of Tom's life
Wikipedia: Tom Neil

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