The list is long of local men who served with distinction in the Royal Air Force in the second world war.

To be a hero you do not necessarily have to be flamboyant and to have performed particularly heroic deeds. Heroes can also be relatively unassuming people. One such person is Denny Keep, who served as a Spitfire pilot. This is his story:

Dennis Victor Keep (always known as Denny) was born on July 4 1923 at Sands, High Wycombe, the son of Victor C Keep and his wife Nellie nee Tranter. In 1927 the family moved to Booker, to live in a bungalow which Victor had built on land next to his father’s smallholding. Later that year, in September, Denny began his education at the village school in Booker.

During his seven years there he played in the school cricket team, a sport he loved. In the summer term of 1934 he was awarded a scholarship to Sir William Borlase school in Marlow, the first scholarship awarded to a pupil at Booker School.

Borlase school was very keen on sporting activities and Denny took part in most of these sports, although his main interest continued to be in cricket, but also rugby and boxing, in which he won a medal in the inter-house competitions. In cricket he excelled as a bowler, in 1937 taking 9 wickets for 4 runs in a second eleven match against Windsor & Eton Grammar School. He was awarded his school colours in cricket and rugby in 1938, in that year also being awarded his School Certificate with Matriculation Exemption, meaning that in the exams he had achieved a Credit in at least five subjects.

He then spent a year in the sixth form studying for a career in the Civil Service. However, he left Borlase in July 1939 and joined Broom & Wade as an apprentice in the Drawing Office.

Following the declaration of war the normal apprenticeship rules no longer applied and he spent much of the next two years in the foundry. Three days after his eighteenth birthday, on July 7 1941, Denny travelled to Oxford and enlisted in the RAF Volunteer Reserve. He was passed medically fit for aircrew and then accepted for training as a pilot.

After training in England, Scotland, Australia and finally Canada, he gained his pilot’s wings on December 4 1942 and was commissioned as a Pilot Officer. Denny talked very little about his experiences during the war, but it is known that he flew ten different aircraft, including three types of Spitfire - Mark V,XVI, and IX - the Boeing Flying Fortress, and the Gloucester Meteor. In June 1943 he was promoted to Flying Officer and in December 1944 to Flight Lieutenant.

It became clear that Denny had an aptitude for passing on his knowledge, so for about the first year of his service he remained in Canada as a Flying Instructor. He returned to Britain in January 1944 to receive additional operational training and to attend a Fighter Leader School.

He was then posted to 129 Squadron serving with them in England, Norway and Germany. The Squadron provided air-cover for the D-Day landings and in July were tasked with destroying V-1s, so-called Flying Bombs. He was demobilised in July 1946, although he remained in the RAF Reserve until released in July 1961.

Back in “Civvy Street” and while on demob leave Denny met a young lady Patricia Beck, who was destined to become his wife, at a dance at the Town Hall in Wycombe. With demob leave over he joined his father as a painter and decorator in the family business. Since his teenage years Denny had been a keen motor-cyclist and he and Pat joined the newly formed Wycombe & District Motor Cycle Club.

The couple married on September 2 1950 at All Saints parish church. Their daughter Gillian was born on June 24 1956. Over the following years the motor cycle was changed to a car and Pat joined the Fourways drama group as the “props lady”. Later Dennis became involved as well, primarily to help to design and build the sets.

He also decided to enlist on a new course in sign-writing which the High Wycombe College of Technology & Art was offering in 1959. He complemented that with training by the course tutor in heraldry. That led to the College asking Dennis to run a course on two nights a week for the Advanced City & Guilds students in decorative painting.

He had no formal qualifications in painting/decorating so after some home-study he took the City & Guilds exam in Decoration & Design. He achieved a First Class Pass, as a result of which he was offered a Scholarship to study at an American university. Unfortunately his home circumstances and responsibilities meant he had to decline.

Denny remained in the family business until 1965, when he decided to apply for the position of lecturer in painting and decorating at the High Wycombe College of Technology & Art. He took some of his Fourways set models with him to show the interviewing board. He was offered the job.

Denny remained at the College for just over 20 years before retiring as a Senior Lecturer in July 1986. His knowledge and enthusiasm inspired countless students of the college.

Denny never lost his love of Spitfires and joined the Spitfire Society, regularly attending their meetings. He was always happy to be on the Spitfire stall at local shows and events and also spoke to a local secondary school about his experiences. His greatest joy was to be able to fly a Spitfire again. That was last year, 73 years after he had last flown one!

This was shortly before he died aged 96 earlier this year.

One of the students of the Technical College who remembers Denny is Chris Lambourne, a regular reader of the Bucks Free Press, who has written this tribute to him:

I have known Denny since 1966 when I left Hatters Lane School aged 15. I went to work for a painter and decorator (P&D) who taught part time at the college. He wanted me to attend the day release P&D course there. Denny was one of the lecturers and he had a big influence on my life from then on. At school I was told I would never make anything of myself and when you are being told that all the time you begin to believe it.

He was the first person who had faith in me and the other students that we could achieve something of our lives. And would be able to pass our college exams, I had never passed anything before in my life. He was such an inspiration, not just to me but to all he came into contact with.

Did you attend the Technical College and know Denny Keep, if you would like to share your memories of him contact me at or 01628 525207.