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Cambridgeshire Battle of Britain ace dies hours after 100th birthday

By Adrian Curtis

Battle of Britain ace Archie McInnes died just hours after his 100th birthday to leave the number of Winston Churchill’s celebrated “few” down to just five survivors.

Mr McInnes, who retired to live in Cambridge, flew Hurricanes during the Second World War. As a pilot he refused to stop flying after losing an arm in combat in 1941.

He even returned to the air last year, in the passenger seat of a Spitfire which had been adapted to carry two people. He was delighted to see a Hurricane fly alongside him as they flew over Biggin Hill.

Archie McInnes takes to the skies. Pictures: Jonny Cracknell
Archie McInnes takes to the skies. Pictures: Jonny Cracknell

Mr McInnes was born on July 31, 1919 and completed his training in August 1940, He was immediately given his commission – he joined 601 squadron at Exeter in September 1940 and was transferred on October 8 to 238 squadron at Chilbolton, Hampshire. It was there that he flew combat mission in the final weeks of the campaign that ended Adolf Hitler’s hopes of invading the UK. He was then assigned to the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious as she hunted the German battleship Bismarck, before being posted to North Africa. He provided fighter cover on several bombing raids until October 30, 1941 when he was shot down.

After the altercation with the German fighter, he had to have his left arm amputated and nearly died as he fought to recover from the combined effects of blood poisoning and typhoid. But that did not stop him flying.

When he recovered he altered a prosthetic arm so that he could work the throttle and returned to the skies, even in a Hurricane, out of Roborough, Devon.

He was released from the Royal Air Force in 1946 with the rank of flight lieutenant and retired to Cambridgeshire.

Battle of Britain veteran Archie McInnes took to the skies in a Spitfire, alongside a Hurricane. Picture: Jonny Cracknell. (14952685)
Battle of Britain veteran Archie McInnes took to the skies in a Spitfire, alongside a Hurricane. Picture: Jonny Cracknell. (14952685)

His biographer and friend, Mr Cracknell, said: “He just had a pure love for flying, being able to go up in a Hurricane and play in the clouds on his own was always his happiest memory.

“He captivated audiences and captured the hearts of everyone he met. He did appreciate what he was representing.”

He added: “Archie was very unassuming, modest and never really liked the attention, so I am sure he is looking down laughing and shaking his head at the national recognition he is getting.

“He had enjoyed a wonderful celebratory birthday lunch amongst loved ones and old golfing pals and was on usual good form, but sadly passed later in the evening. All thoughts are with the family.”

He leaves a daughter, Sandra.


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