A BRAVE Battle of Britain pilot who died last month aged 99 was given a fitting send-off as a lone spitfire soared over his funeral cortege.
Squadron Leader Nigel Rose fought off the German Luftwaffe in the skies over southern England in 1940.
There are now only said to be ten pilots, dubbed “The Few”, alive still.
And the spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight took to the skies once more in a final and poignant farewell to Sqn Ldr Rose.
Airmen pall bearers carried his coffin to the village church at Llanigon near Brecon, Mid Wales, and paid tribute to the man who shot down four Nazi planes and survived a dog fight over the Channel.
To mark his burial a Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight performed three flypasts over St Eignon Church in Llanigon where he lived for 50 years.
His daughter, novelist Barbara Erskine, said: “On his 90th birthday we gave him a flight in a two-seater Spitfire.
“They normally only have one seat. He even took over the controls from the pilot while they were in the air.
“He had to be certified by a doctor to say he was fit enough to do it. He wasn’t allowed to take off or land.
“He said he was surprised by how quickly being able to fly came back to him, just like riding a bicycle.”
The average life expectancy for British pilots at the time of the Battle of Britain, when the country was close to invasion and defeat at the hands of the Nazis, was just four weeks.
Many were in their late teens or early twenties when they took to the skies in Spitfires and Hurricanes from July to October 1940.
Sqn Ldr Rose previously described coming under attack by the Luftwaffe and said they ‘made rather a mess of the Spitfire’.
He added: “At first I thought I had to get out. I put the hood back, undid the straps and got my feet up on the seat.
“But then I decided that I could get back. I managed that and landed with no brakes, flaps or radio.’
He went on to say the Spitfire was ‘something out of this world’ and added: “It was a beautiful aircraft to fly.
‘”It had no bad habits, it had its own personality, and as some people have said once you were sitting in the cockpit and strapped in, you felt part of it and it felt part of you.”
A spokesman for RAF Cosford said: “It was a poignant and fitting way to say goodbye to a national war hero
“The Queen’s Colour Squadron performed beautifully taking the coffin from the church to the Hurst.
“As the Spitfire dropped on the final occasion it waggled its wings which was a farewell from one fighter pilot to another.
“You have to be pretty noteworthy to get a flypast and it showed the magnitude of his service to his country.”
After serving with No 54 Squadron, he left the RAF in February 1946 and became a chartered quantity surveyor.
Sir Stephen Hillier, RAF Chief of the Air Staff, said: “Squadron Leader Nigel Rose, as one of the sadly ever diminishing number of ‘The Few’, was part of an extraordinary cadre of brave and selfless people to whom we owe our freedom.
“They remain an inspiration to the RAF of today. Their bravery and sacrifice should never be forgotten – lest we forget.”
His funeral service was packed with friends and family and military dignitaries, all wishing to say a final farewell to a man who risked his life in the service of others.
During the Battle, Sir Winston Churchill said: “The gratitude of every home in our island, in our empire, and indeed throughout the world, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion.
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”