Antony’s special flight home

HE left his home town of Hastings aged 18 in an old mini car bound for RAF flight training school.

Now 30 years later Antony Parkinson is about to return in one of the world’s most iconic aircraft as part of the poignant 70th D-Day anniversary.

“It will be a huge honour to fly over my home town on such an important occasion,” he told the Observer. “It is a very fitting tribute to all those who lost their lives.”

Flight Lieutenant Parkinson, or Parky as he likes to be known, will tomorrow (Saturday) fly a Mark IX Spitfire over the Hastings and St Leonards seafront in a special flypast by the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

He will be joined by one of only two working Lancaster Bombers and a Hawker Hurricane which will fly down from their base at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.

Local philanthropist Roger Crouch is trying to organise 1,000 to assemble on the Pelham beach at 5pm to spell out the poignant message “Lest We Forget.”

Antony, now 49, grew up in Fairlight Avenue in Ore and attended William Parker school.

He left in 1983 and went straight to officer training at Biggin Hill to train as a pilot.

He went on to have an illustrious career flying the Phantom F4 and Tornado and flew missions during the Balkans war in the 1990s.

He also was part of the Red Arrows team between 2001 and 2004.

The Spitfire he will be flying tomorrow was built in March 1944 with clipped wings optimised for low level flight, and fitted with a Merlin 66 engine.

Allocated to the Royal Canadian Air Force 144 wing, based in various locations around southern England.

She took part in the Rodeo fighter sweep over occupied France in the weeks leading up to D-Day.

After the war she served as a gate guardian at RAF Hawkinge and RAF Locking bases and was recovered and refurbished in 1992 for the BBMF.

As of 2008, she was displayed in a silver paint scheme used in late 1944 fighter/bomber missions over the Balkans from bases in southern Italy.

The display will have been to Normandy to take part in a flypast earlier in the day.

They will leave Lydd just before 5pm and set out for our seafront to take the salute from the crowd.

“I am really looking forward to seeing my home town again,” added Antony. “It will a very poignant occasion for me to honour all those who gave their lives during the landings and the war.

“Never in my wildest dreams as a young boy would I have thought I would be taking part in something like this.”