Flying, Fighting and Reflection (ePub)
The Life of Battle of Britain Fighter Ace, Wing Commander Tom Neil DFC* AFC AE
This is the thrilling account of the Battle of Britain ace fighter pilot, Tom “Ginger” Neil. Neil was one of an elite band, nicknamed “The Few” by Winston Churchill, he flew Hurricanes during 141 combat missions in that battle and went on to command the first Spitfire XII squadron during 1942/43 as the RAF went on the offensive in north-west Europe.
In this, the only full account of Neil's life to be published in collaboration with his family, we learn how he became a poster boy for the war effort and how he credits his “sixth sense” for keeping him alive during the Second World War.
There was, however, one terrifyingly close brush with death, when in 1940 he had a mid-air collision with another Hurricane. With the rear section of his aircraft gone, the plane was out of control and hurtling to the ground, yet somehow he managed to bail out and miraculously survived with only a minor leg injury.
As well as RAF service during the Siege of Malta, Wing Commander Neil, who passed away in July 2018, mere days before his 98th birthday, also served with the Americans during the D-Day landings.
During his career, Neil was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses for the destruction of at least fourteen enemy aircraft, and was a successful test pilot after the war before commanding a jet fighter-reconnaissance squadron in Egypt's troubled Canal Zone during the 1950s for which he was awarded the Air Force Cross.
With contributions from the man himself, this book also looks at his life after the RAF and his career as a successful author. For military buffs and novices alike, it is a must-read account of a true war hero.
Covering the entire career of one of the RAF’s Battle of Britain Heroes, this book starts with the young Tom Neil joining the RAF and follows his wartime career, becoming a test pilot, his command of 208 squadron, joint military service with the United States and then becoming an accomplished author. A remarkable man, reading about Wing Commander Tom “Ginger” Neil, it becomes clear where some of the clichés of the Battle of Britain come from. With nicknames like “Bingo” and “Willie”, the exploits of Neil and the other brave airmen flying Hurricanes and Spitfires are remarkable. It seemed that each time they took to the air they were in new experimental versions of their planes, each time to give themselves that edge in aerial combat. Students of the evolution of air flight will find a lot to pore over.Peter Brian, Wargames Illustrated, May 2019
With full cooperation of Wing Commander Neil and his family (sadly he passed away in 2018) this book is tribute one of Britain’s Heroes. The book includes multiple photos from Neil’s collection as well as numerous quotes of his own voice. This is the only disappointment I had reading this book, there was not enough of this. I felt I would rather have been reading Neil’s own words for the entire book. Knowing that he has written numerous books already himself, this book has only served as a means of ensuring my bookcase will become fuller in the future with the Wing Commanders own writing.
Author article 'One of the (final) Few' as featured byMilitary History Monthly, January 2019
The extraordinary story of the life and times of Wg Cdr Tom ‘Ginger’ Neil, the last surviving Battle of Britain ace.RAF News
Tom Neil served with 249 Squadron, RAF at North Weald, when Victor Beamish was Station Commander from September 1940 to May 1941 and died earlier this year at the age of 97 as one of the last surviving Battle of Britain pilots. This book will be of particular value to those interested in the history of North Weald Airfield. Biographer Peter Jacobs and author of many books on aviation topics with the help and co-operation of Tom Neil and his family have documented his life.North Weald Airfield Museum Newsletter