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Last Updated: Friday, 13 April 2007, 09:38 GMT 10:38 UK
Fighter legend Neville Duke dies
Fighter ace Squadron Leader Neville Duke
Neville Duke continued flying up until his death
Aviation historians have paid tribute to one of Britain's most decorated World War II fighter pilots who died shortly after his last flight.

Sqn Ldr Neville Duke, 85, flew 485 sorties achieving 28 air combat victories, including seven aircraft shot down in seven days.

In 1953 he broke the then world air speed record achieving 727.63mph.

Sqn Ldr Duke, from Lymington, Hants, was taken ill after flying his aircraft G-Zero with Gwen, his wife of 60 years.

He died in hospital in Surrey on Sunday after suffering an aneurysm.

A spokesman for Tangmere Military Aviation Museum in West Sussex, where Sqn Ldr Duke was honorary president, described him as a true gentleman.

Test pilot

He said: "We were very fortunate and always immensely proud that he should have agreed to serve as our president.

"The unstinting support that he gave us over so many years was outstanding.

"We have lost a very dear friend and he will be sorely missed."

Sqn Ldr Alan Jones of the Solent Sky museum in Southampton added: "Neville was a tremendous support to us at the museum - he had a tremendous service record."

As a fighter pilot, Sqn Ldr Duke was also shot down twice, including once by the German ace Otto Schulz.

After the war he became a celebrated test pilot for Hawker, flying the Hunter fighter to the world speed record. He also flew the Harrier.

Medals auction

In December 2005 he auctioned, his medals and memorabilia - including his Distinguished Flying Cross with two bars, his OBE, his wartime diaries, his mother's scrapbook of newspaper cuttings - for 138,000 because of security and insurance fears.

Sqn Ldr Duke was taken ill when he landed at Popham airfield near Winchester, on Saturday afternoon and collapsed a short time later.

He died at St Peter's Hospital in Chertsey.

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