Some of the Few…

As a young man, Dilip Sarkar realised that although many famous pilots had published their autobiographies, or had biographies written about them, the majority had largely vanished into obscurity. It was these veterans Dilip was especially interested in and whose memories he set out to record. More so, Dilip was moved by the stories of casualties, which also required documenting, and so it was that in the mid-1980s, without resources or formal training, he set out on this journey. Many of the Few were members of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association, the then Honorary Secretary of which, Wing Commander Pat Hancock, provided essential support through forwarding Dilip’s approaches to members. All responded enthusiastically and rapidly firm and lasting friendships were developed in spite of the difference in ages between the would-be researcher and these survivors of aerial combat.

Dilip with the late Flying Officer Ken Wilkinson in 2010. Ken was an early supporter and friend, at whose funeral Dilip had the sad duty of speaking in September 2017.

As the work progressed and an increasing quantity of material was collated, Dilip realised the importance of what was becoming a unique and substantial archive of correspondence, interviews and photographs, and wanted to provide the ‘also rans’, in the words of Battle of Britain Hurricane pilot Peter Fox, a platform to share their experiences. Consequently, Dilip’s literary career began with contributing articles to internationally-read aviation magazines before his first book was published in 1990. That, however, was not enough. What Dilip wanted to do was provide the public an opportunity to meet personalities from the pages of history – as he had. This led to many years of providing book-signings attended by many of the Few, largely , although not exclusively, at non-aviation related venues – Worcester Guildhall, for example, being a regular site. The reason for this was because Dilip felt only operating at air shows and aviation museums meant essentially preaching to the converted – whereas his vision was to raise awareness amongst people who would not necessarily otherwise have become exposed to Battle of Britain history. It worked. Dilip’s book-signings and lectures became hugely successful and in 2003 his work was recognised when made an MBE for ‘services to aviation history’. All these years later, all of the numerous veterans who attended Dilip’s events and supported his work are deceased – emphasising the importance of the experience Dilip provided and his archive arising.

On this website, Dilip will be posting short accounts of certain of the Few, survivors and casualties, although more detailed information will be found in his various books.

In 2018, Dilip also decided to return to centre-stage, providing illustrated presentations on the Few, believing that he has a moral duty to continue sharing his friends’ stories. Details of forthcoming events can be found elsewhere on this site.

Dr Gordon Mitchell (extreme left), author and son of Spitfire designer ‘RJ’, with Battle of Britain pilots at the launch of Dilip’s ‘The Invisible Thread’ at Great Malvern in 1992. All are now sadly deceased – but Dilip had the great privilege of a unique relationship with many of the fabled Few…