A NUMBER of Gwent airmen will be highlighted in an exhibition in Cardiff later this week to celebrate the Welsh pilots’ efforts during the Battle of Britain.

The exhibition is to be held at City Hall, Cardiff on Thursday, September 16 and Friday, September 17.

Some Gwent pilots will be highlighted for their efforts in protecting the UK from Nazi attack. They include John Bedford Kendal of Chepstow, Edward Graham from Ebbw Vale and Ernest Waite Wootten from Aberbeeg.

John Bedford Kendal was a pilot from Chepstow. He was born on September 29, 1920, to Ernest and Doris Lily Kendal.

South Wales Argus: Pilot Officer John Bedford Kendal from ChepstowPilot Officer John Bedford Kendal from Chepstow

In 1939, he joined the RAF and began flying Spitfires operationally in September 1940. He shot down an Me109 on October 2, however, was shot down himself just three days later while in combat with Me109 fighters over Tenterden in Kent. He force-landed and was injured.

He was back in action later that month and shot down another Me109 on October 29. He later volunteered to serve flying fighters protecting Arctic convoys to supply Russia. He shot down an enemy bomber in April 1942 but had to bail out. He died of injuries sustained when hitting the water.

Edward Graham was a Squadron Leader from Ebbw Vale and flew fighters with No. 72 Squadron during the Battle of Britain.

South Wales Argus: Squadron Leader Edward Graham from Ebbw ValeSquadron Leader Edward Graham from Ebbw Vale

On July 1, 1940, he helped destroy a German seaplane over the English Channel. On August 31 his squadron moved to Biggin Hill just as it was devastated by several major raids by the Germans. The same day, he damaged two Dornier 17 bombers.

A day later, he damaged two Me109 fighters. Then two days later he damaged an Me110 fighter, but his own Spitfire was damaged by the return fire, and he had to make a forced landing at Lympne.

On September 11, he damaged another Me109 fighter. The following day, the squadron returned to Biggin Hill. He then took command of the squadron. It is said that he continued to lead with courage and distinction.


Pilot Officer Ernest Waite Wootten of Aberbeeg joined the RAF in 1938 and began to fly Spitfires in September the following year.

South Wales Argus: Pilot Officer Ernest Waite Wootten from AberbeegPilot Officer Ernest Waite Wootten from Aberbeeg

He shared in destroying a Ju88 bomber on October 9. He had another confirmed on November 25 and destroyed a Do17 bomber on December 19.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his services. He often flew with his bull terrier on his lap, and he was chosen to fly some aerobatic sequences for the film The First of the Few.

Gwent was also home to an RAF base during the war, and this is also highlighted in the exhibition. Chepstow Racecourse became designated as RAF Chepstow, an outpost of RAF St Athan, No. 32 Maintenance Unit RAF and No. 19 Maintenance Unit RAF.

The centre of the course had a grass runway and bombers were housed at Oakgrove on the opposite side of the road.

The exhibition will open at 11.30am on Thursday, September 16 with a parade and a flypast outside City Hall – which will include the Red Arrows.

Attending the launch will be a number of VIPs including the Chief of Air Starr, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, secretary of state for Wales Simon Hart MP, Hannah Blythyn MS deputy minister for social partnership, Lord Mayor of Cardiff Councillor Rod McKerlich, Air Officer Wales Air Commodore Adrian Williams and deputy Lord Lieutenant of South Glamorgan Gareth Chapman.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said: “Over the years, Wales has been vital to the development and success of the Royal Air Force. Just as RAF pilots were trained for the Battle of Britain at RAF Hawarden on Deeside, so the fast jet pilots of today are trained at RAF Valley on Anglesey.

“This exhibition reminds us of the bravery, skill and teamwork shown by Welsh pilots and groundcrew in the summer of 1940. They are the very same qualities that we nurture and develop in the RAF of today, protecting the United Kingdom and our allies. I’m delighted to be returning to Cardiff to see this excellent exhibition for myself.”

Air Commodore Williams said: “There is a long and close bond between Wales and the RAF which this exhibition really brings to life.

“The 67 pilots – The Welsh Few – came from all corners of Wales. Many, like Sgt Glyn Griffiths, came from ordinary beginnings, but they did extraordinary things. Some of these stories have never been told before and I do hope people will come and find out more on Wales’ important role in the Battle of Britain.”

Secretary of state for Wales, Simon Hart MP, said: “I’m delighted to be attending this fascinating exhibition in Cardiff. It’s a wonderful tribute to the magnificent way in which Welsh men and women played their part in the Battle of Britain – a battle for the very survival of this country. Although 81 years have elapsed since then, the debt we still owe them is immeasurable.”

Hannah Blythyn MS said: “This important exhibition tells a unique and special story of our past, outlining the vital role that Wales played during the Battle of Britain. The RAF has always had a strong connection with Wales, and it is right we mark the 81st anniversary of the Battle of Britain and recognise the sacrifices made by Welsh pilots, ground crew and communities.

“This event helps us remember the enormous contribution made by all and ensures their stories can be told again to the people of Wales.”

The exhibition was due to be held last year on the 80th anniversary of the battle but was postponed due to the pandemic.

It is now being held in the week of Battle of Britain Day. The official Battle of Britain Day is September 15, seen as the decisive day in 1940 when Nazi aircraft losses were so high that they knew they could not defeat the RAF and invade Britain.

Following the exhibition in Cardiff, it will go on to tour across Wales. Dates will follow.