Captain John Hemingway (101) says 'the only advice I can give to people is to be Irish'
At 101 years old, Captain John Allman Hemingway lives a quiet existence at his nursing home in Foxrock in Dublin.
Adored for his gentleness and impeccable manners, the former RAF fighter pilot has lived a life defined by astonishing heroism and luck.
Today, on the 80th anniversary of the defining moment of the Battle of Britain which saw 56 German Luftwaffe shot down by allied forces, he is the sole surviving pilot. This is even more remarkable given he was shot down four times during World War II, twice in a single month.
On one occasion he had to parachute into the sea - but was miraculously saved by a rescue boat. He then helped to row the boat ashore.
On another occasion, after being shot down in Italy, he was rescued by farmworkers who dressed him in peasant clothes and walked him past scores of German troops.
In his most recent interview, Mr Hemingway, like many of his generation, refuses to accept any special praise or recognition.
In fact, the Battle of Britain Association didn't know of his existence until 2018 when his family contacted them to tell of his continued good health.
In the interview, he said: "Everyone played their part, so I never regarded myself as a history maker."
However, he admitted he is "one of the lucky ones".
"Given that I was shot down four times, lived when my parachute didn't open properly and survived when many didn't, you could say I'm a lucky Irishman.
"I am here because I have had some staggering luck and fought alongside great pilots in magnificent aircraft with ground crew in the best air force in the world at that time," he added.
During the Battle of Britain, which raged in the skies of southern England between July and October 1940, 544 RAF pilots and aircrew lost their lives.
Mr Hemingway explained how he and his officers coped with the loss of their comrades.
"We were incredibly young, most of us were less than 23, so much was happening. It was just a matter of taking each day at a time, each one no more important than any other. Others write the history - we were doing our job."
Born in Dublin in 1919, he was educated at St Patrick's Cathedral Choir School and later St Andrew's College.
He lived with his parents and three sisters in St Kevin's Park in Churchtown.
In January 1938, Mr Hemingway was accepted for RAF training in Yorkshire, and by December was posted to No 85 Squadron in Debden, flying Hurricanes.
The average number of trainees who qualified as fighter pilots following training was three in 100.
After the war, he married his partner Bridget. They had three children, and she died in 1998. Mr Hemingway retired from the RAF in 1969 as a Group Captain. He moved back to Ireland in 2011 and has lived happily here since.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Hemingway's son, Peter, explains that his dad is a "gentleman" in the real sense of the word.
"He is a quiet, reclusive and private man. However, he is the life and soul of any party for about 10 or 15 minutes, and then the shutter comes down.
"He is old-school. They love him at his care home because of his manners. They call him a gentleman in the sense of being a gentle man.
"However, behind that is a will of granite. If he doesn't want to do something, he won't do it.
"The biggest argument we ever had is [relating to] his room, where there is a button he can press if he is in pain or if he falls. He refuses to use it as he doesn't want to bother anyone. That's the kind of man he is."
Mr Hemingway has a theory about why he has lived such a long and lucky life.
"I can't say, "Don't drink", or "Don't fool about with people", or "Don't fly and get shot at" - I've done everything.
"And I'm an Irishman. The only advice I can give to people is to be Irish."