WW2 hero gets last wish granted to see a Spitfire fighter plane one last time – after airport staff spot him looking through the fence
A terminally ill former WW2 Spitfire engineer’s ‘last wish’ to be reunited with the iconic plane was granted after top brass saw him forlornly looking through the fence from his wheelchair.
Ken Farlow, 95, was a chartered electrical engineer during the conflict, carrying out vital work to keep the spitfires and hurricanes in the air in Syria and Palestine.
But after being diagnosed with terminal colon cancer he asked daughter Helen is he ‘could see a Spitfire – one last time’.
Proud Helen, 52, took him to Gloucestershire Airport where the vintage planes were being maintained by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight crew.
She posted a poignant photo of the RAF veteran on Facebook as Ken sat in his wheelchair gazing through the fence at the striking aircraft on the runway.
The heartwarming image was spotted by the airport director of operations – who was so moved he invited Ken for a VIP visit.
Grandfather Ken, who served with the bomber squadron, spent hours talking to the pilots and ground crew, who were captivated by his stories.
He had a tour of the hanger and a pint in the bar while talking to the pilots who proudly posed alongside him for photographs.
The team also arranged for Ken to visit Royal Airforce Coninsby and attend the Royal International Air Tattoo in Fairford last week too.
Helen, from Gloucester, said: “Dad was really poorly a few weeks ago. He was bed ridden and we thought we were going to lose him.
“I was having a normal conversation with him and I asked in a roundabout way what would he like to see.
“He mentioned a few things and then said he would love to see the spitfire again. He knows time is precious, especially now.
“We now have some wonderful photos and video – lots of memories to go in that memory box.
“And it all started from a photo of dad sitting in front of the fence at Gloucestershire Airport.
“Couldn’t take the smile away from dad. He had a wonderful time chatting to the ground crew who were all so lovely.”
William Kenneth Farlow – known as Ken – joined up in 1939 at the age of 19 and served as an engineer in the RAF with 38 Squadron in the Middle East.
He then served with the Royal Australia Airforce 450 Sqn in North Africa and Syria and then back in England with 91 Squadron.
The former engineer, from Painswick, saw the planes at Gloucestershire Airport last month, when they were based their for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
Helen took the emotive picture of her poorly father sat close to the fence, and it was spotted by Darren Lewington, director of operations at the airport.
He arranged for Ken to be a VIP guest at Royal Airforce Coninsby and the Royal International Air Tattoo last week, before inviting him airside on Sunday.
Darren said: “I generally look after the Facebook page, and I saw the picture online. It is such an evocative image.
“It was an absolute pleasure to welcome him to the airport and to put everybody in touch with each other.
“Thanks to the power of social media, we’ve been able to transform that ‘glimpse from behind the fence’ to something a bit more special.”
The ground crew of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight spent time talking to Ken, listening to his stories and experiences working on the aircraft.
Ken got up close to the planes, watched the crew wheel the planes out the hanger, and enjoyed a pint in the Aviator bar.
Helen said: “I have not heard him talk that much in so long. He has loved every minute of it. I was watching his eyes and he was getting tearful and joyful at the same time. It brought life back into him.
“Many days recently he has not been well enough to go out so I think we have been very lucky recently to catch him on a few good days.
“His grandchildren, Charlotte and Samuel, are going to have some wonderful memories of their granddad enjoying the one thing he talks about near enough all the time – his time spent in WW2 on the aircraft.”
Ken Farlow said his visit to the airport was a “wish come true”.
The father-of-three was headed to university before he joined the RAF where he reached the rank of corporal.
He served as an electrical engineer, before becoming chartered when he left the forces.
Ken, who has four grandchildren, married his wife Jean in 1962, and she passed away from cancer in 2007.
Speaking yesterday of his visit to the airport he said: “I’m so relieved and so happy I have done this.
“It’s a wish come true.”