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Richard Jones: Hero of the skies
4:00pm Thursday 15th March 2012 in Local Obituaries
A Spitfire pilot who protected the country from Hitler’s planned invasion has died at the age of 93.
Flight Lieutenant Richard Jones, of Witney, was one of the very few pilots to fly for the entire duration of the Battle of Britain.
He was born on December 28, 1918, and was the fourth son of Thomas Jones, a vicar in Grazley, Berkshire, and his Danish mother Anna.
He had a comfortable upbringing in the vicarage and was sent to boarding school at a young age for a private education.
But, with war looking likely, his ambition to follow his brothers to university was thwarted and, in 1938, he joined the Royal Air Force as a volunteer reserve.
He joined 19 Squadron in Cambridgeshire, which became the first to fly the legendary Spitfires, and later 64 Squadron at RAF Kenley, in Surrey.
After just 17 hours of flying experience in a Spitfire, Mr Jones joined the Battle of Britain on September 16, 1940, and flew up to four missions a day.
Pilots in the conflict had a life expectancy of a week and Mr Jones was shot down by the Luftwaffe while flying over Kent, but was unscathed.
The same year as the Battle of Britain, which took place between July and October 1940, Mr Jones married a young hairdresser, Elizabeth Cook.
The couple had met at a dance in Reading and were married by Mr Jones’s father at Grazley Church in Berkshire.
They moved to Witney following the Battle of Britain, when Mr Jones was seconded to The de Havilland Aircraft Company, which was based in the town.
He was responsible for flying Spitfires and Hurricanes for the first time after they had been repaired and, over four years, test flew more than 2,000 planes.
Mr Jones went on to work for Smiths Industries, Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company and then for Hertford Motor Company in Oxford.
He joined Hertford as a salesman but rose to become sales director of the company.
He retired in 1983 but went on to work as a part-time usher at Witney Magistrates Court for another 12 years.
Mr Jones died on Wednesday, March 7, and leaves three children, Frances, 70, Christopher, 68, and Susan, 59, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Elizabeth died in 2009.
A funeral service will take place at High Street Methodist Church in Witney on Friday at 1pm.