A wartime fighter pilot believed to be the last remaining survivor of the Battle of France has died at the age of 93.
Wing Commander Peter Ayerst, who died on May 15, spent eight years as a fighter pilot with the Royal Air Force throughout the Second World War, before retiring as a wing commander.
At one point he was based in Birmingham as a test pilot for new Spitfires which were being built at the Castle Bromwich factory.
A spokesman for Shoreham Aircraft Museum, West Sussex, where Mr Ayerst attended memorial dedications and signing events, said he would be “greatly missed by members of the museum and all those who had the privilege to have spoken to him”.
Mr Ayerst, from Beckenham, Kent, joined the RAF in 1938 on a short service commission and was despatched to France at the outbreak of war where he survived a confrontation with 27 Messerschmitt Me109s fighters – his Hurricane riddled with bullets.
During the Battle of Britain, in 1940, he shot down the first of his eight kills, a Heinkel He111. He later served with fighter ace Douglas Bader before being posted to North Africa in 1942 where he was forced to crash-land his Hurricane in a minefield.
He later led repeated attacks on enemy motor transport, personally destroying a Junkers Ju 52 and 17 vehicles.
Mr Ayerst, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in December 1944, flew Spitfires on intruder sorties over France before and during D-Day and on bomber escort duty against Germany’s V-weapons sites and in support of mass daylight raids.
Mr Ayerst retired from the RAF in April 1973 having flown his last aircraft, an English Electric Lightning XS459, landing at RAF Wattisham in Suffolk.
His time as a fighter pilot was captured in the book Spirit of the Blue, written by his friend Hugh Thomas.
In November 2005, Mr Ayerst was reunited with a Mark 22 Spitfire he had last flown 60 years before. His logbooks showed he had flown the aircraft – serial number PK 664 – while working as a test pilot in Birmingham.
The reunion took place after Mr Ayerst read an story about the aircraft in an aviation magazine and took his logbooks with him when he went to see it at the Science Museum in London.
He said it was “thrilling” to see the plane again when it formed the centrepiece of the Inside the Spitfire exhibition.