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Squadron Leader Geoffrey Harris Augustus Wellum DFC (4 August 1921 – 18 July 2018)[1][2] was a British fighter pilot and author, best known for his participation in the Battle of Britain. Born an only child in Walthamstow, Essex, Wellum was educated at Forest School, Snaresbrook before serving in the RAF.

Geoffrey Wellum
Geoffreywellum 140.jpg
Geoffrey Wellum in 2009
Birth nameGeoffrey Harry Augustus Wellum
Born(1921-08-04)4 August 1921
Walthamstow, England
Died18 July 2018(2018-07-18) (aged 96)
Mullion, England
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchRoyal Air Force
Years of service1939–1961,
RankSquadron Leader
Service number42925
Battles/warsBattle of Britain
AwardsDistinguished Flying Cross




Flight Lieutenant Brian Kingcome (left), commanding officer of No. 92 Squadron Royal Air Force and his wingman, Flying Officer Geoffrey Wellum, next to a Supermarine Spitfire at RAF Biggin Hill, Kent, 1941

Aged eighteen, he signed up on a short-service commission with the Royal Air Force in August 1939. The first aircraft he flew was the Tiger Moth at Desford airfield in Leicestershire; after successfully completing the course he then went on to fly the North American Harvard at RAF Little Rissington with 6FTS.

He was then posted directly in May 1940 to 92 Squadron, flying Spitfires.[3] He saw extensive action during the Battle of Britain. His first commanding officer was Roger Bushell, (later immortalised in The Great Escape),[4] and his close colleagues included Brian Kingcome.[5]

Officers and guests celebrating the first anniversary of the arrival of No. 92 Squadron RAF at RAF Biggin Hill, September 1941.
Front row, (left to right): Wg Cdr John A. Kent (Kentowski), Flt Lt Anthony Bartley, Mrs Wade, Flt Lt Robert Holland, Plt Off Trevor Wade and two unidentified ladies. In the back – Plt Off Sebastian Maitland-Thompson, Fg Off Tom Wiesse (Intelligence Officer) and Fg Off Geoffrey Wellum.

He claimed a Heinkel He 111 shot down on 11 September, and a quarter share in a Junkers Ju 88 downed on 27 September 1940. Two (and one shared) Messerschmitt Bf 109s were claimed 'damaged' during November 1940. A Bf 109 was claimed shot down on 9 July 1941 over France.[6]

In February 1942 he was transferred to 65 Squadron based at Debden, being appointed a Flight Commander in March 1942.

On 11 August 1942, Wellum led eight Spitfires launched from the carrier HMS Furious to reinforce the fighter complement at Luqa airfield on Malta. Here he joined 145 Squadron on air defence duties.


Wellum suffered severe sinusitis and battle fatigue after three years' intensive frontline flying. He returned from Malta to Britain, becoming a test pilot on the Hawker Typhoon, based at Gloster Aircraft.

He finished the war as a gunnery instructor, staying in the RAF, first as a staff officer in West Germany, followed by a four-year tour with 192 Squadron. He married Grace, his wartime girlfriend, and they had three children.[4]

1960 to 1980sEdit

Wellum left the Royal Air Force in 1960[7] and took over the family business.


In the mid-1980s, with the family business in liquidation and his divorce pending,[8] Wellum retired, as he had promised himself in his youth, to The Lizard peninsula, Cornwall,[8] settling in Mullion. To prove to himself that he had actually done something with his life,[8] he took his wartime notebooks and wrote a longhand memoir of his time as a Spitfire pilot, that he never intended for publication. He was a member of the Royal Air Force Club.

First LightEdit

Approached in 2000 by author James Holland who was researching a fictional novel based during the Battle of Britain, Wellum lent him his unpublished memoir. Holland showed it to friends in publishing at Penguin Books and, in 2002, Eleo Gordon, Penguin’s editorial director, approached Wellum with a publishing deal[4][8] – two decades after he had originally written the memoir.[8] First Light: The Story of the Boy Who Became a Man in the War-Torn Skies Above Britain was published by: Viking Books, 2002 (hardcover, ISBN 0-670-91248-4); Wiley & Sons, 2003 (hardcover, ISBN 0-471-42627-X); Penguin Books, 2003 (paperback, ISBN 0-14-100814-8).


Wellum has contributed to various television documentaries on the Battle of Britain, including Spitfire Ace produced by RDF Media/Channel 4 (2004),[9] Dangerous Adventures for Boys produced by Channel 5 (2008).[10] and The Spitfire: Britain's Flying Past produced by the BBC (Sep 2011) [11]

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the BBC commissioned a one-off drama for TV called First Light, based on Wellum's book of the same name. The film was first shown by the BBC on 14 September 2010.[12]

Honours and awardsEdit

This officer has been with his squadron since the evacuation of Dunkirk. During the recent offensive operations over France he has led his section and flight with great skill and determination. He has destroyed at least three enemy aircraft and damaged several others.

— London Gazette [13]


  1. ^ Humphries, Will (20 July 2018). "Battle of Britain Spitfire pilot dies at 96" – via
  2. ^ 92 Squadron – Geoffrey Wellum Archived 2 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ A Cobra in the Sky. Simon Morris. The History of 92 Squadron RAF
  4. ^ a b c Geoffrey Wellum: Prize fighter The Independent 4-June-2002
  5. ^ Holland, James (February 2001), Interview with Geoffrey Wellum, Curiously, in Wellum's book, Kingcome is spelled all the time as "Kingcombe". Wellum describes Kingcome as "the finest fighter pilot I ever flew with" and recommends his book A Willingness to Die
  6. ^ 'Those Other Eagles' Shores, 2004, page 635
  7. ^ "Youngest Battle of Britain RAF pilot dies". 20 July 2018 – via
  8. ^ a b c d e House, Christian (17 July 2010), "The 89-year-old Boy", The Spectator
  9. ^ Spitfire Ace, archived from the original on 3 May 2010
  10. ^ Martin Kemp: The Battle of Britain (1/6), Dangerous Adventures For Boys
  11. ^ The Spitfire: Britain's Flying Past
  12. ^ First Light
  13. ^ "No. 35238". The London Gazette. 5 August 1941. p. 4516.