It is sadness that we report the death of Wing Commander Tom Neil DFC and Bar, AFC, on 11 July 2018, aged 97. Neil, who was the last but one RAF Battle of Britain pilots, was a renowned fighter ace who completed 141 combat missions throughout the summer and autumn of 1940. Leading 249 Squadron, Neil flew with Flight Lieutenant, Denis Parnall, a relative of Mark and Jonathan Parnall, Directors at Parnalls Solicitors, during the Battle of Britain.
Neil and Denis both took part in “Battle of Britain Day” on 15 September which was described as the greatest battle to date. Sadly, three days later, Denis was killed in action whilst serving under Wing Commander Neil when his Hurricane V6685 was shot down by BF 110’s over Essex causing him to crash land on the ground.
Neil joined the RAF as a volunteer in 1938 and by the spring of 1940 he was flying Hurricanes aged just 19 years old. Often completing four or five missions a day, he survived being hit by enemy fire several times, a collision mid-air with another RAF fighter where he had to deploy his parachute and he became something of a reluctant celebrity. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in October 1940 and a second a month later and was a prolific writer in later years as well as an articulate spokesman for a generation of airmen, many of whom were not recognised for their sacrifices during the war.
Mark Parnall, on hearing of the death of Wing Commander Neil, said “Neil was an inspiration to the late Denis Parnall, our family and our country. The kindness he showed to Denis, amongst huge adversity when they served together in 249 Squadron demonstrated how much of a legend he was. He will be greatly missed and to the Parnall family will be forever a hero.”
In 2010, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Neil gave a frank speech on his war-time experiences which illustrates the strong character of this amazing pilot. You can view it here
For more details on the career of Wing Commander Neil, you can read his Obituary here
For more information about Flight Lieutenant Denis Parnall click here