In 1918, the RAF was established as the world's first independent air force. To mark the 100th anniversary of its creation, Penguin are publishing the Centenary Collection, a series of six classic books highlighting the skill, heroism and esprit de corps that have characterised the Royal Air Force throughout its first century.The Last Enemy is Richard Hillary's extraordinary account of his experience as a Spitfire pilot in the Second World War. Hillary was shot down during the Battle of Britain, leading to months in hospital as part of Archibald McIndoe's 'Guinea Pig Club', undergoing pioneering plastic surgery to rebuild his face and hands. The Last Enemy was first published in 1942, just seven months before Hilary's untimely death in a second crash and has gone on to be hailed as one of the classic texts of World War II.
Richard Hillary was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1919. He was sent to boarding school in England and went to Trinity College, Oxford in 1937. He was still at Oxford when the Second World War broke out and, with other members of the R.A.F Volunteer Reserve, was immediately called to duty. He blew Spitfires in the Battle of Britain before being shot down and horribly burned. He underwent several operations by the great plastic surgeon, Archibald McIndoe. After a slow and very painful recovery, Hilary begged to be allowed to return to flying. He was killed, at the age of 23, when his plane crashed in a night training operation.