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At the age of 95, Bill Malins still remembers growing up on an Oxfordshire farm in the 1920s, where he would help with the haymaking, steer a horse-drawn harrow, milk a cow and ride sheep for entertainment. Amid the happiness there were moments of tragedy. There was the loss of his baby sister to peritonitis when Bill was seven years old. A couple of years later he had to stand by as the farm was burned to the ground, taking it with his favourite horse and dog.
Bill would cycle each day to the local RAF base to deliver milk, often stopping to gaze at the aircraft overhead. By the time he was 22 years old he had become an RAF pilot himself. He went on to serve his country nobly during the Second World War as a reconnaissance flyer, seeing action in France, Germany and Holland, risking his life for his country, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross and rising to the rank of Wing Commander.
Bill Malins was one of the first officers to set foot on Sicilian soil when the Allies invaded the island in 1943, and the same year he narrowly survived the deadly doodlebug which struck the Strand, killing more than 80 people. Bill was there when the Allies crossed the Rhine in 1945 in the closing stages of the war, and his squadron was one of the first inside the gates of Belsen when the notorious concentration camp was liberated.
After completing a post-war world tour with the RAF Directorate of Accident Prevention, Bill gave up the airborne life in 1952 to return to the farm, where he has lived and worked ever since.
Bill Malins was born in 1915, the fourth child and first son of an Oxfordshire farming family. As a small boy he would help with the haymaking, steer a horse-drawn harrow, milk a cow and ride sheep for entertainment. He would cycle each day to the local RAF base to deliver milk, often stopping to gaze at the aircraft overhead. He never dreamed that he would eventually be flying one of them himself, but by the time the Second World War began he was serving with the RAF as a reconnaissance pilot. He went on to see action in France, Germany and Holland, risking his life for his country and earning a Distinguished Flying Cross before giving up the airborne life to return to the farm.