Kiwi Battle of Britain pilot Keith Lawrence dies

Keith Lawrence climbs from a Spitfire (file)
Keith Lawrence climbs from a Spitfire (file)

Keith Lawrence, one of the last surviving Kiwi pilots who took part in the Battle of Britain, has died.

The 96-year-old died on June 2 in Devon, England, where had lived since retiring in the mid-1980s, reports The Telegraph.

As squadron leader, the Waitara-born Mr Lawrence shot down a number of German aircraft in 1940, including two Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters.

His Spitfire was shot down in November 1940, but he managed to parachute into the sea.

After recovering from his injuries he went to Malta, leading missions against waves of German bombers, successfully shooting down a few.

His efforts in Malta earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross, but he wasn't done yet, taking to the skies for dozens more missions towards the end of World War II.

After the end of the war, Mr Lawrence returned to New Zealand and served as an air traffic controller with the RNZAF. He moved to the UK in the 1950s.

In 2002, he again took to the skies in a Spitfire as part of the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations.

He is survived by his wife Kay, three sons and two daughters.

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