AS THE Royal Air Force celebrate their centenary year, one of their finest - a local - has been in touch with the Daily Echo to share his story with its readers.

Richard Christian was born in St Denys, Southampton, and was a teenager at the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939.

Due to Southampton being a high-value target for Luftwaffe bombing he, along with thousands of other children from the city, was evacuated to Bournemouth.

French soldiers evacuated from Dunkirk were billeted in his school and he was encouraged to converse with them during their stay. He subsequently picked up much of the language and bagged himself top marks in his French exams as a result.

Mr Christian joined the RAF after leaving school and was determined to become a fighter pilot. He was sent to South Africa for training, working on the American designed Harvard aircraft.

On the successful completion of his training he was allocated to 258 squadron and flew P47 Thunderbolts, affectionately known as ‘The Jug’. The American designed fighter packed 2000 horsepower engines and weighed five tons when unloaded. However, with ammunition and fuel onboard, the machine could weigh anything up to 7.5 tons.

Mr Christian flew in Burma and New Guinea, never knowing if he would ever return to British soil or when the fighting would end. He was prepared to fight for several years in Malaysia, had it not been for VJ Day on August 15, 1945.

He was awarded the Burma Star for his bravery and sacrifice during the conflict.

Nowadays Mr Christian is a member of the Spitfire Society and enjoys attending events with his friend Diane, who has a keen interest in the Second World War - many of her family played vital roles in the war effort. Her father served in the navy on the Arctic Convoys and her mother was in the Land Army. Her second cousin served in the RAF as a night fighter pilot.

As well as the Burma star, Mr Christian was a awarded a wealth of other medals which include the Victory Medal, The Defence Medal, 1939-45 Medal and the Long Service Medal.