RAF at 100: Battle of Britain veteran takes to skies in Spitfire as Queen calls service ‘shining example of inspiration’

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An RAF veteran who defended the country during the Battle of Britain has once again taken to the skies in a Spitfire to mark the 100th anniversary of the service, which the Queen has called a “shining example of inspiration”.

Squadron Leader Allan Scott, 96, returned to Biggin Hill airport for a celebratory flypast as a passenger in a two-seater version of the beloved fighter plane. He was originally posted to Biggin Hill in 1941.

“The RAF has stood in defence of Britain for a century,“ said Mr Scott. “It’s part of me. I can’t wait to get up there flying again in my beloved Spitfire. It’s a beautiful aircraft. It fits you like an overcoat.”

The Queen also sent her “heartfelt congratulations” to the service, a century after the Royal Flying Corps merged with the Royal Naval Air Service.

“The anniversary of the world’s first independent air force is of great significance, and it is fitting to pay tribute to the tenacity, skill and sacrifice of the men and women who have served within its ranks over the last century and who have defended our freedom gallantly,” the Queen said.

“Through its enduring focus on professionalism, excellence and innovation, the Royal Air Force stands as a shining example of inspiration around the world today and for the next generation.

“May the glory and honour that all ranks have bestowed on the Royal Air Force light its pathway to the future guarding our skies and reaching for the stars.”

The message – which was read out by 16-year-old Aircraftsman Adam Wood at the first headquarters of the RAF on the Strand, London – ended with the service’s Latin motto Per Ardua Ad Astra which translates to English as “through adversity to the stars”.

The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, described the Queen’s message of support as “tremendously important” and said the anniversary was a “chance to reflect back on a first century of achievement, success, courage and sacrifice”.

“I joined the Royal Air Force quite a few years ago now, but I joined the Royal Air Force because I had a love of flying, I wanted to be a pilot … but also because I wanted to give myself as many opportunities as possible, to challenge myself and get greater responsibility,” said ACM Hillier.

“One day I found myself in command of the Royal Air Force – it is just a huge privilege, I am tremendously proud to be in command of the Royal Air Force. But I do that on behalf of everybody in the Royal Air Force and the Royal Air Force family.”

ACM Hillier said in the lead-up to the anniversary that the RAF was the busiest it had been since the Second World War, as it combats Isis in Syria and faces new challenges from Russia.

“As others seek rapidly to match or even surpass our current technological edge, we must modernise our capabilities in air, space and cyberspace,” he said.

Celebrations on Sunday also include a service at St Clement Danes Church, in London, the RAF’s Church, attended by veterans, serving RAF personnel and former Countdown presenter and honorary group captain, Carol Vorderman.

A 100-day baton relay also began at the Royal Courts of Justice, with Air Commodore Charles Clarke, 94, passing a specially designed baton to the young Aircraftsman Adam  Wood.

The start of the relay was marked by Wing Commander Paul Farnes, 99, who rang an original scramble bell used during the Second World War to call pilots to their Spitfires and Hurricanes – and he said doing so was “great fun”.

The baton will travel the length and breadth of the country, as well as to the Gulf, eastern Europe, Afghanistan and the Falkland Islands. With 20 RAF sports associations involved in the relay, the baton will also be carried by a variety of RAF equipment, including aircraft and vehicles, before it returns to London on 10 July.

Press Association contributed to this report