The Truly Great who flew above us

World War II pilot Mary Ellis in central London on May 23, for a reception hosted by Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May as part of the Royal Air Force's 2018 centenary celebrations. Battle of Britain veterans Wing Commander Tom "Ginger" Neil (left)
Battle of Britain veterans Wing Commander Tom "Ginger" Neil (left) and Geoffrey Wellum watching a Royal Air Force flypast over Buckingham Palace to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, in London, on July 10, 2015. Both men were holders of the Distinguished Flying Cross and both died last month. PHOTO: REUTERS
World War II pilot Mary Ellis in central London on May 23, for a reception hosted by Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May as part of the Royal Air Force's 2018 centenary celebrations. Battle of Britain veterans Wing Commander Tom "Ginger" Neil (left)
Captain Ho Weng Toh in a 2011 photo. During the war, he joined what became the legendary Flying Tigers as a bomber pilot, cheating death on numerous occasions.ST FILE PHOTO
World War II pilot Mary Ellis in central London on May 23, for a reception hosted by Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May as part of the Royal Air Force's 2018 centenary celebrations. Battle of Britain veterans Wing Commander Tom "Ginger" Neil (left)
World War II pilot Mary Ellis in central London on May 23, for a reception hosted by Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May as part of the Royal Air Force's 2018 centenary celebrations. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Fighter pilots - including Singapore's - who risked their lives for their country deserve to be remembered

A half-remembered snatch of poetry has in recent weeks been drifting in and out of my mind, and with it has come a dull ache - a sort of numbness and sadness combined. It is I know the first line of a piece by the late, great British poet Stephen Spender. It goes like this: "I think continually of those who were truly great."

Perhaps the sadness has something to do with the fact that in the July just gone, three extraordinary individuals from a bygone era - the Battle of Britain - have left us.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 19, 2018, with the headline 'The Truly Great who flew above us'. Print Edition | Subscribe