Pilot, 97, who flew 50 raids in WWII fulfils dream of flying Spitfire

Veteran pilot, 97, who flew 50 bombing raids over Germany during WWII fulfils lifelong dream of flying a Spitfire after a 70 year wait

  • Colin Bell, 97, flew de Havilland Mosquito planes in RAF during World War Two
  • After waiting 70 years the great-grandfather got to fly a Spitfire in Chichester
  • Mr Bell flew 50 bombing raids over Germany during the war and 13 over Berlin

A Mosquito pilot who flew 50 bombing raids over Germany in World War Two has fulfilled his dream of flying a Spitfire after a 70 year wait.

Colin S Bell, 97, took to the skies again at Boultbee Flight Academy in Chichester, in a two-seater Spitfire TR9.

Mr Bell flew Merlin engine powered Mosquito bombers for the RAF’s Pathfinder Group during WWII and said his Spitfire experience was ‘better than I expected.’

World War Two pilot Colin S Bell, 97, (pictured) fulfilled his life long dream of flying a Spitfire 

He said: ‘I have had this fantastic experience…flying in a Spitfire, something I’ve always wanted to do, and today is the culmination of that ambition…It was even better than I expected.’

Mr Bell, whose full title is Flt/Lt (Ret’d) Colin S Bell DFC AE FRICS IRRV(Hons) RAF (Ret’d) flew for 608 & 162 Squadrons, part of the Pathfinder Group – an elite, hand-picked bunch of the RAF’s most skilled pilots and navigators.

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The Pathfinders were tasked with flying bombs deep into enemy territory and marking targets for larger, more vulnerable bomber formations to increase their accuracy. 

Mr Bell, who now lives in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and his navigator were part of the Light Night Striking Force which carried out nuisance raids on cities all over Germany forcing workers down into air raid shelters.

He and his fellow pilots were aided by cutting-edge navigational technologies of the time, which in the post-war era paved the way for safe commercial air travel. 

The RAF veteran took to the skies with Boultbee Flying Academy in Chichester and they flew another Spitfire (rear) alongside Mr Bell’s plane (front) to mark the special occasion 

Pilots Matt Jones (left) and Chris Hadlow (right) joined the WWII Mosquito pilot (centre) in the skies for his Spitfire experience. Mr Bell said he left the ‘acrobatics’ to instructor Chris 

Mr Bell flew de Havilland Mosquito planes during WWII and completed 50 bombing raids over Germany, including 13 over Berlin (stock picture)

Colin completed 50 such bombing raids – all of them over Germany and 13 over Berlin.

Boultbee Flight Academy invited the retired great grandfather-of-four to fly with instructor Chris in their two-seat Spitfire TR9.  

To mark the special occasion they also put another Spitfire up alongside him. 

The Spitfires took off together, with their 27-litre Rolls-Royce Merlin engines thundering them down the runway before making a ‘Merlin formation.’ 

The iconic fighters are capable of some 400mph and so had to throttle back to have their picture taken by a third aircraft.

While in the skies the Spitfires did some acrobatics, but Mr Bell admits he left this to instructor Chris. 

He said: ‘I must admit that I left it to Chris to do the aerobatics, although I did fly it around to the best of my ability. 

‘Chris did the aerobatics very effectively, he gave a roll off the top, a barrel roll, and he did a slow roll – it was all very impressive.’

Mr Bell was born in 1921 and joined the Royal Air Force towards the end of 1940.

The instructors and pilots (Mr Ball sat facing the camera in an armchair) prepare for the flight by discussing plans to make an iconic Merlin formation with the Spitfires

Mr Bell said flying in a Spitfire (pictured) was a ‘fantastic experience’ and that it was ‘a privilege to be in a Spitfire’

His training was carried out in the United States of America before their entry into the War after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941.

He married wife Kathlyn in July 1943, has two children, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. 

Very few men have flown both a Spitfire and a Mosquito and Colin compared the differences between the two aircraft after his flight.

He said: ‘The Spitfire is a lighter aircraft than the Mosquito and therefore one engine for the lighter aircraft I suppose is comparable with two engines for a heavier aircraft. 

‘From the point of view of manoeuvrability and responsiveness I don’t think there’s much to choose between the two. 

‘You could do with the Mosquito almost as much as you could do with the Spitfire. It was a privilege to fly, and a privilege to be in a Spitfire today.’  

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