Leader comment: The astonishing bravery of a WWII RAF pilot

In September 1940, RAF fighter pilot Ray Holmes spotted a German bomber apparently lining up an attack on Buckingham Palace. He fired his guns, only to discover he was out of ammunition.

Undeterred, he made the extraordinary decision to ram the Dornier bomber, flying directly towards it and taking off its tailplane with his wing.

Forced to bail out because of the damage to his Hurricane, he landed in a dustbin near Victoria Station. His plane crashed on Buckingham Palace Road, going so deep into the ground that the hole with the wreckage was simply filled in.

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Glasgow University to honour 'forgotten father' of RAF

So, as a flypast was held yesterday over the palace to mark the RAF’s centenary, the Queen would have had more reason than many of those present to honour the bravery displayed by members of the air force during the Battle of Britain and in wars and conflicts throughout its history.

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Speaking for many of her generation, she said: “I remember the Battle of Britain being fought over the skies above us and we shall never forget the courage and sacrifice of that time.”