Squadron Leader John Pattison, one of the few remaining New Zealanders who flew in the Battle of Britain, has died in Hastings at the age of 92.

Shot down by an enemy fighter during the battle and badly wounded, he recovered to have a distinguished war and be made a member of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and win the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and France's Legion d'Honneur.

He also commanded 485 (NZ) Spitfire Squadron late in the war.

Mr Pattison, who worked on his father's Waipawa farm pre-war, learned to fly on Tiger Moths at Bridge Pa, Hastings, and had logged just 20 hours when World War 2 began.

He volunteered immediately and after getting his wings in April 1940 and commission the following month sailed for England in June 1940.

Desperately short of pilots as the Battle of Britain developed, Mr Pattison and others like him were rushed through training by the Royal Air Force and posted to active squadrons.

Mr Pattison had just three hours on a Miles Master trainer and then the briefest conversion course on Spitfires, before joining 266 Squadron on August 27 at the height of the battle.

Thrown in against hordes of enemy aircraft, Pattison's squadron became split up on his first operational flight and the New Zealander became lost over the Thames Estuary.

He eventually tacked on to a Hurricane but ran out of fuel and made a wheels up landing on a field bristling with anti-invasion obstacles.

Mr Pattison was greeting by pitchfork-wielding farmers who thought he was a German.

Posted later to 92 Squadron at Biggin Hill, Mr Pattison was soon shot down by a Messerschmitt 109 and badly wounded by a cannon shell in the thigh and spent the next eight months in hospital.

In June 1941 Mr Pattison was posted to a training unit in Wales as an instructor but notched a black mark when he flew under the Severn railway bridge and lost three months seniority as a penalty.

In April 1942 he joined 485, one of the three squadrons in the Kenley Wing. Late that month while escorting Hurricane bombers attacking Calais, 485 was jumped by a large force of Focke-Wulf 190s and lost four Spitfires.

Mr Pattison's engine was hit and knocked out by a cannon shell and his cockpit filled with smoke.

He glided his stricken fighter across the Channel, baled out near the English coast and was rescued 90 minutes later.

After a year flying attacks over France, Mr Pattison was posted as a chief flying instructor, then joined 66 Squadron flying Spitfire IXs equipped with bombs which were used in attacking V-weapon launch sites, in the pre-invasion offensive and as cover on the D-Day landings.

In September 1944, Mr Pattison was named commanding officer of 485 Squadron, the third last of 10 485 COs. He led the New Zealanders until February 1945.

Mr Pattison returned to New Zealand in January 1946 with a record of two enemy aircraft destroyed and many ground vehicles to his credit.

He farmed for the rest of his working life in Waipawa before retiring to Havelock North.

Of his wartime flying Mr Pattison told an aviation researcher in 1993: "Wonderful times to have lived through and fantastic mates."

He recovered completely from his thigh wound but in 1993 he had a cataract operation on his right eye that his surgeon thought was caused by a metal splinter "from the exhaust of my Spitfire when coming in to land."

John Gordon Pattison, born in Waipawa January 27, 1917, and educated at Wanganui Collegiate, died on Friday. He is survived by his four sons and their families.