Geoffrey Wellum

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Geoffrey Wellum
Geoffreywellum 140.jpg
Geoffrey Wellum in 2009
Birth name Geoffrey Harry Augustus Wellum
Born (1921-08-04) 4 August 1921 (age 94)
Walthamstow, Essex, England, United Kingdom
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Air Force
Years of service 1939–1961,
Rank Squadron Leader
Service number 42925
Battles/wars Battle of Britain
Awards Distinguished Flying Cross

Squadron Leader Geoffrey Wellum DFC (born 4 August 1921[1]), is a British Battle of Britain fighter pilot and author. Born an only child in Walthamstow, Essex, Wellum was educated at Forest School, Snaresbrook before serving in the RAF.



Aged eighteen, he signed up on a short-service commission with the Royal Air Force in August 1939. The first aircraft he flew was the Tiger Moth at Desford airfield in Leicestershire; after successfully completing the course he then went on to fly the North American Harvard at RAF Little Rissington with 6FTS.

He was then posted directly in May 1940 to 92 Squadron, flying Spitfires.[2] He saw extensive action during the Battle of Britain. His first Commanding Officer was Roger Bushell, (later immortalised in The Great Escape),[3] and his close colleagues included Brian Kingcome[4]

Flight Lieutenant Brian Kingcome (left), commanding officer of No. 92 Squadron Royal Air Force and his wingman, Flying Officer Geoffrey Wellum, next to a Supermarine Spitfire at RAF Biggin Hill, Kent, 1941.

He claimed a Heinkel He 111 shot down on 11 September, and a quarter share in a Junkers Ju 88 downed on 27 September 1940. Two (and one shared) Messerschmitt Bf 109s were claimed 'damaged' during November 1940. A Bf 109 was claimed shot down on 9 July 1941 over France.[5]

In February 1942 he was transferred to 65 Squadron based at Debden, being appointed a Flight Commander in March 1942.

On 11 August 1942, Wellum led eight Spitfires launched from the carrier HMS Furious to reinforce the fighter complement at Luqa airfield on Malta. Here he joined 145 Squadron on air defence duties.


Wellum suffered severe sinusitis and battle fatigue after three years' intensive frontline flying. He returned from Malta to Britain, becoming a test pilot on the Hawker Typhoon, based at Gloster Aircraft.

He finished the war as a gunnery instructor, staying in the RAF, first as a staff officer in West Germany, followed by a four-year tour with 192 Squadron. He married Grace, his wartime girlfriend and they had three children.[3]

1961 to 1980s[edit]

Wellum left the Royal Air Force in 1961, working with a firm of commodity brokers in the City of London, set up his own business and then took over the family business.


In the mid-1980s, with the family business in liquidation and his divorce pending,[6] Wellum retired as he had promised himself in his youth, to The Lizard peninsula, Cornwall.[6] Settling in Mullion, to prove to himself that he had actually done something with his life,[6] he took his war time notebooks and wrote a long hand memoir of his time as a Spitfire pilot, that he never intended for publication. Wellum still to this day resides in the area.

First Light[edit]

Approached in 2000 by author James Holland who was researching a fictional novel based during the Battle of Britain, Wellum lent him his unpublished memoir. Holland showed it to friends in publishing at Penguin Books, and in 2002 Eleo Gordon, Penguin’s editorial director, approached Wellum with a publishing deal[3][6] - two decades after he had originally written the memoir.[6] First Light: The Story of the Boy Who Became a Man in the War-Torn Skies Above Britain was published by: Viking Books, 2002 (hardcover, ISBN 0-670-91248-4); Wiley & Sons, 2003 (hardcover, ISBN 0-471-42627-X); Penguin Books, 2003 (paperback, ISBN 0-14-100814-8).


Wellum has contributed to various television documentaries on the Battle of Britain, including Spitfire Ace produced by RDF Media/Channel 4 (2004),[7] Dangerous Adventures for Boys produced by Channel 5 (2008).[8] and The Spitfire: Britain's Flying Past produced by the BBC (Sep 2011) [9]

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the BBC commissioned a one-off drama for TV called First Light, based on Wellum's book of the same name. The film was first shown by the BBC on 14 September 2010.[10]

Honours and awards[edit]

This officer has been with his squadron since the evacuation of Dunkirk. During the recent offensive operations over France he has led his section and flight with great skill and determination. He has destroyed at least three enemy aircraft and damaged several others.
— London Gazette[11]


  1. ^ 92 Squadron - Geoffrey Wellum
  2. ^ A Cobra in the Sky. Simon Morris. The History of 92 Squadron RAF
  3. ^ a b c Geoffrey Wellum: Prize fighter The Independent 4-June-2002
  4. ^ Interview with James Holland, and curiously, in his book, Kingcome is spelled all the time as "Kingcombe". Wellum describes Kingcome as "the finest fighter pilot I ever flew with" and recommends his book A Willingness to Die
  5. ^ 'Those Other Eagles' Shores, 2004, page 635
  6. ^ a b c d e
  7. ^
  8. ^ Martin Kemp: The Battle of Britain (1/6) | Dangerous Adventures For Boys | TV Highlights | Throng
  9. ^ The Spitfire: Britain's Flying Past
  10. ^ BBC - BBC Two Programmes - First Light
  11. ^ The London Gazette: no. 35238. p. 4516. 5 August 1941. Retrieved 27 August 2010.