Don Finlay DFC AFC; Battle of Britain Spitfire pilot and double Olympic medalist
Imprint: Fighting High Publishing
224 Pages, 6.25 x 9.25 in, approx 50 black and white illustrations
- December 2023
All the more remarkable is that Finlay competed at the very highest levels of international athletics at the same time as pursuing his demanding career as a Royal Air Force fighter pilot. Joining up as a boy apprentice in the mid-1920s, he qualified as a pilot before the start of the Second World War and found himself in the cockpit of a Supermarine Spitfire, commanding a squadron, during the Battle of Britain. Shot down and wounded in the Battle, he was soon back in the air and rose through the ranks to command a fighter wing in Burma, ending the war with several ‘kills’ to his name, as well as a Distinguished Flying Cross and an Air Force Cross to add to the medals won under less lethal circumstances on the running track. As a commander, his insistence on strict discipline often led to conflict with his subordinates, but there is no doubt that his methods got results.
After the war, still serving in the RAF, Don returned to competitive athletics and was as fast and successful, if not more so, than ever. By then he was in his 40s, but age was no barrier and several of his greatest hurdling victories came when others would have been long retired from the track, against athletes often twenty years his junior. Don Finlay’s life was to end prematurely, and under tragic circumstances, but his legacy lives on as one of the finest athletes ever to wear the vest of Great Britain, as well as one of ‘The Few’.