WWII veteran flies Spitfire over south coast

Colin Bell and the Duke of Richmond. Picture Alex Benwell
Colin Bell and the Duke of Richmond. Picture Alex Benwell

A FEW days before the RAF centenary celebrations in London, a 97-year-old former RAF pilot from Kent fulfilled a lifelong ambition at Goodwood Aerodrome when taking the controls of a Spitfire in the skies over the south coast.

Colin Bell was invited to the Boultbee Flight Academy at Goodwood last week for the half-hour dream flight. Afterwards he was met by The Duke of Richmond, who spoke to him about his experience.

Colin Bell in Spitfire

Colin Bell in Spitfire

‘I have had this fantastic experience at Goodwood, in flying a Spitfire,’ said Colin. ‘It’s something I have always wanted to do and today was the culmination of that ambition. It has been a fantastic experience and the organisation here is unsurpassed.’

Colin served in WWII on operations as a Mosquito Bomber Pilot. Born in 1921, he joined the Royal Air Force towards the end of 1940.

Following Pearl Harbour, Colin was retained by the American Army Air Corps as an advanced single-engine flying instructor responsible for training American and British Cadets in a Harvard.

On his return to the UK in 1943, Colin converted to twin-engine Mosquito Bombers and joined 608 Squadron (Pathfinder Group) based at Downham Market in Norfolk. During his tour of operations, he carried out 50 bombing raids over Germany.

Colin ended his full-time RAF service in 1946 carrying Diplomatic mail to Embassies situated in various parts of Europe and Africa. After the war, he qualified as a Chartered Surveyor and was made a Freeman of the City of London in 1987 and of the District of Huntingdonshire in 2013.

Colin added: ‘I left it to Chris Hadlow, the Boultbee Spitfire pilot, to do the aerobatics when flying but I did do some flying around to the best of my ability.

‘Chris did a “roll off the top,” a “barrel roll” and a “slow roll.” The Spitfire is a lighter aircraft than the Mosquito but I don’t think there is much to choose between the two. It was an absolute privilege to be in a Spitfire.’