A first-hand account of life during the dark years of war has been published to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Unbeknown to his family, Bill Wilkinson, who lived in Hullavington, had handwritten his memoirs of his role as an RAF fighter pilot during the 1930s and 1940s, never intending for his tale to become public.

It was not until after his death in April 2000 that his only daughter Sally Bryant found the manuscript and, moved by the emotion and detail it contained, decided to publish it.

“When my dad retired from the RAF he joined the civil service for ten years and ended up working on the base at RAF Hullavington,” said Mrs Bryant, who now lives in Maidenhead.

“He was pretty bored, so he sat and wrote the story of how he came to be a fighter pilot – against the strong odds of his very humble background – and his account of the war.

“He hand wrote it on old computer paper, put it in a folder, stuck it in the back of a cupboard and didn’t tell anyone about it.”

The book begins when Mr Wilkinson was 14 and was inspired to become a pilot after visiting Sir Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus.

After convincing his parents, who were not keen on their son joining the RAF, Mr Wilkinson was delighted to enrol on November 5, 1934.

His manuscript shows how he rose from being an Aircraft Hand – “the lowest of the low” – to proudly gain his wings five years and one day after joining up.

He became a fighter pilot in 1940 and his manuscript recalls the day he discovered he would be going to war.

“War has been declared, Wilkinson. We must brush up on our aerobatics,” he wrote.

Mr Wilkinson found himself in the centre of the Battle of Britain when he flew Hurricanes with the 501 Squadron. One passage reads: “I saw the fighter escort of three ME109s at about 8,000 feet, some way ahead, flying in a Vic Formation.

“We joined the chase, throttles wide open, and as we gradually gained on them, it seemed that they were completely oblivious to us.”

During the course of his RAF career Mr Wilkinson flew Magisters, Mosquitoes, Lancasters and Vampires, before retiring as Squadron Leader in 1970.

Mr Wilkinson lived in Hullavington from 1966 until his death at the age of 84. He served as a parish councillor and raised money for the Arthritis and Rheumatism Council.

One Pilot’s War: The Battle of Britain and Beyond, £8.99 Amazon or e-mail sallybryant@taplow1.freeserve.co.uk