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Wing Commander John Freeborn DFC* holds the distinction of having flown more operational hours than any other RAF pilot during the Battle of Britain. He joined the RAF in 1938, initally flying Gloster Gladiators, but started WWII with 74 Squadron, flying Spitfires. His first taste of action was over the Dunkirk evacuation (covering the BEF’s famous escape).

On 6th September 1939 he took part in the Battle of Barking Creek - a tragic misunderstanding during which two Hawker Hurricanes were intercepted and shot down by aircraft from 74 Squadron, thereby becoming the first aircraft destroyed by a Spitfire. John shot down the aircraft of Pilot Officer Montague Hulton-Harrop who did not survive, becoming the first RAF pilot to die in WWII.

Still with 74 Squadron he fought through the Battle of Britain under Adolf Malan, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. His Bar was awarded in February 1941.

John went on to serve with 57 OTU, 602 & 118 Squadrons, and was later promoted Wing Commander Flying with 286 Wing in Italy. He survived the war, credited with 17 “kills”.


  • Tiger Cub - The Story of John Freeborn DFC* (John Freeborn & Christopher Yeoman) ISBN: 978-1848840232
  • Fighter Boys: Saving Britain 1940 (Patrick Bishop) ISBN: 978-0753199152
  • The One Show, BBC 3rd September 2009

External links


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