Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Neville Duke (pictured below), who has died aged 85, was one of the most decorated fighter pilots of the second world war. Serving over northern France, Italy and North Africa, Duke completed 485 sorties in total, clocking up 28 air combat victories and once shooting down seven aircraft in seven days. Duke himself was shot down twice.


dukeAfter the war, he joined Hawker as a test pilot, becoming chief test pilot in 1951. He achieved the world air speed record in 1953 when his Hawker Hunter F Mk 3 reached 727.63 miles per hour (1,171 km per hour) over Littlehampton in the UK.

Duke was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), a Distinguished Flying Cross and an OBE.

Duke hit the headlines once again in 2005, when he decided to auction off his medals and other flying memorabilia because of fears over security and to pay for a private hip operation for his wife who was facing a long wait for treatment by the UK National Health Service (NHS).

Duke detailed his experiences in a memoir, Test Pilot, which was published in 2003.

Duke kept flying until the end: he was taken ill after landing at Popham airfield in Hampshire last Saturday and later died.


Related story:

Geoff Thomas