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Strangers turn up to pay respects to one of Britain’s war heroes

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Strangers turn up to pay respects to one of Britain’s war heroes

Strangers turn up to pay respects to one of Britain’s war heroes

Hundreds of strangers turned out today (Thurs) to say a final farewell to one of Britain's most decorated war heroes after he died with no surviving family.

Bomb aimer Jim Auton, MBE, who was awarded 19 medals for his brave RAF exploits during the Second World War, passed away aged 95 on January 18.

He was believed to have been the last British survivor of the Warsaw Air Bridge, the perilous operation to drop supplies to fighters of the Warsaw Uprising.

RAF top brass this week launched an appeal for mourners to attend his funeral after fears he would not get the fitting send-off he deserved.

And today more than 200 people gathered to line the streets to pay tribute to the war veteran at a service held at Newark Parish Church, in his home town of Newark, Notts.

He was given an RAF guard of honour as his coffin, draped in the Union Jack, was led into the church by pallbearers which included Air Force officers past and present.

The service began with the son 'Nimrod' by Elgar before tributes were made by Dave Baliolo Key and Leszek Rowicki, the Consul General of Poland in Manchester.

Mr Rowicki, reading a letter from the Polish Government, said: "I want to express our sorrow.

Jim was a friend of the Polish people.

"He was a hero who served for the benefit of British and Polish people.

He built bridges between Britain and Poland.

"I had the honour of meeting him and knowing him personally.

He visited the consulate in Manchester.

"He was a real hero for me.

I last saw him in December 2019 where I decorated him with the Order of Merit of Poland on behalf of President Duda.

"He spent 50 minutes circling the city of Warsaw, where he saw the fires and devastation.

"I would call him a hero and a friend of Poland.

I would like to thank Paul Trickett for being his friend and caring for him.

You did a great job." Reverend Paul Franklin, who presided over the funeral, said in his eulogy: "We have come here today to remember Jim.

"We have come to commit his body to the ground and comfort one another in our grief.

"Jim and I prayed together in his final days.

We don't need to fear death or that dark place.

"We give thanks to Jim for all that was good in his life.

We also give thanks for the memories we treasure today." The service then closed with The Lord's Prayer, Onward Christian Soldiers and 'Time to Say Goodbye, sung by Andrea Bocelli, before he was buried at Newark Cemetery.

Mr Auton fearlessly risked his life twice to carry out daring low-level drops of supplies during the infamous 1944 Warsaw Uprising.

The 68-day revolt against Nazi occupation cost the lives of 18,000 Polish fighters and 180,000 civilians.

He was awarded 19 medals for bravery and valour making him one of Britain's most decorated servicemen of the conflict.

Mr Auton grew up on RAF bases as his father was a member of the ground crew who maintained some of the RAF's earliest aircraft.

He joined up himself in 1941 and, having seen the devastation poured on British cities caused by the Luftwaffe, hoped to do his bit.

Initially, he wanted to be a Spitfire pilot but was later re-trained as a bomb-aimer.

Speaking previously, he said: "Being a pilot in the Royal Air Force was the only thing I wanted to do with my life.

"As a youngster, I used to pretend I was flying a plane and as soon as I could I joined up.

"It's all any lad my age wanted to do...to become part of that elite members' club - the flyers, the men at the very top of the chain.

"We were not old enough to drive or get married - but we were old enough to fly planes.

"We lived each day like it was our last, smoking and drinking anything we could lay our hands on." Mr Auton flew 37 wartime missions with the 178 Squadron but is best known for his contribution and bravery during the Warsaw Uprising.

On August 1, 1944, after five years of Nazi rule, the resistance groups in the city rebelled in an effort to overthrow their oppressors.

Within the next few days, around 180,000 Polish civilians were killed, including an estimated 60,000 children, with supplies running low.

Winston Churchill sent over 200 low-level RAF supply drops to the besieged city in an operation known as the Warsaw Airlift.

On August 12, 1944, Mr Auton and his crew flew to Warsaw to drop 12 containers with essential weapons, ammunition and medical supplies.

During a six-hour flight to the beleaguered city, he witnessed one of their aircraft shot down before they found the drop zone.

His crew all agreed they would not return home until the Armia Krajowa (Home Army) soldiers received their supplies.

Speaking previously about the operation, Mr Auton, who wrote a book about liberating the Eastern Front, said: "We must have been mad.

"Planes were being shot down all around us.

"I said we had not come all this way to drop the supplies in the wrong place.

You just felt like a robot and the training took over." Two nights later, he and his crew would return to drop further supplies.

On his 37th military mission, Mr Auton was seriously wounded, suffering damage to his lungs and he lost an eye.

After the war, he became fluent in six languages and was even asked to spy for British intelligence, but refused.

He built a profession in engineering and spent 30 years working alongside both the Polish and Czech presidents.

He also launched his own companies - in the UK and abroad - buying and exporting goods.

He was called a "true friend of Poland" in a letter signed by that country's ambassador in October last year for his role in liberating the country.

Mr Auton received thousands of messages of thanks and support from people in Poland, who recognised his outstanding service during the conflict.

He was also awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland by President Andrzej Duda, which is the highest award a foreigner can receive.

For his wartime bravery, he received 19 medals from countries including France, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

He was also bestowed an MBE from Prince Charles for his charity work, which included raising £3m Air Bridge Association, which he also founded.

In 1989, he was responsible for the creation of the Warsaw Air Bridge Memorial in Newark Cemetery.

The memorial cross was erected to commemorate both the Armia Krajowa and the 250 British, Polish and South African airmen who died in supporting the uprising in Poland.

His wife, Peggy, who died in 2016, is buried by the cross and he has a plot next to her at the church where he was laid to rest this afternoon.

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Strangers turn up to pay respects to one of Britain’s war heroes

Hundreds of strangers turned out today (Thurs) to say a final farewell to one of Britain's most decorated war heroes after he died with no surviving family.

Bomb aimer Jim Auton, MBE, who was awarded 19 medals for his brave RAF exploits during the Second World War, passed away aged 95 on January 18.

He was believed to have been the last British survivor of the Warsaw Air Bridge, the perilous operation to drop supplies to fighters of the Warsaw Uprising.

RAF top brass this week launched an appeal for mourners to attend his funeral after fears he would not get the fitting send-off he deserved.

And today more than 200 people gathered to line the streets to pay tribute to the war veteran at a service held at Newark Parish Church, in his home town of Newark, Notts.

He was given an RAF guard of honour as his coffin, draped in the Union Jack, was led into the church by pallbearers which included Air Force officers past and present.

The service began with the son 'Nimrod' by Elgar before tributes were made by Dave Baliolo Key and Leszek Rowicki, the Consul General of Poland in Manchester.

Mr Rowicki, reading a letter from the Polish Government, said: "I want to express our sorrow.

Jim was a friend of the Polish people.

"He was a hero who served for the benefit of British and Polish people.

He built bridges between Britain and Poland.

"I had the honour of meeting him and knowing him personally.

He visited the consulate in Manchester.

"He was a real hero for me.

I last saw him in December 2019 where I decorated him with the Order of Merit of Poland on behalf of President Duda.

"He spent 50 minutes circling the city of Warsaw, where he saw the fires and devastation.

"I would call him a hero and a friend of Poland.

I would like to thank Paul Trickett for being his friend and caring for him.

You did a great job." Reverend Paul Franklin, who presided over the funeral, said in his eulogy: "We have come here today to remember Jim.

"We have come to commit his body to the ground and comfort one another in our grief.

"Jim and I prayed together in his final days.

We don't need to fear death or that dark place.

"We give thanks to Jim for all that was good in his life.

We also give thanks for the memories we treasure today." The service then closed with The Lord's Prayer, Onward Christian Soldiers and 'Time to Say Goodbye, sung by Andrea Bocelli, before he was buried at Newark Cemetery.

Mr Auton fearlessly risked his life twice to carry out daring low-level drops of supplies during the infamous 1944 Warsaw Uprising.

The 68-day revolt against Nazi occupation cost the lives of 18,000 Polish fighters and 180,000 civilians.

He was awarded 19 medals for bravery and valour making him one of Britain's most decorated servicemen of the conflict.

Mr Auton grew up on RAF bases as his father was a member of the ground crew who maintained some of the RAF's earliest aircraft.

He joined up himself in 1941 and, having seen the devastation poured on British cities caused by the Luftwaffe, hoped to do his bit.

Initially, he wanted to be a Spitfire pilot but was later re-trained as a bomb-aimer.

Speaking previously, he said: "Being a pilot in the Royal Air Force was the only thing I wanted to do with my life.

"As a youngster, I used to pretend I was flying a plane and as soon as I could I joined up.

"It's all any lad my age wanted to do...to become part of that elite members' club - the flyers, the men at the very top of the chain.

"We were not old enough to drive or get married - but we were old enough to fly planes.

"We lived each day like it was our last, smoking and drinking anything we could lay our hands on." Mr Auton flew 37 wartime missions with the 178 Squadron but is best known for his contribution and bravery during the Warsaw Uprising.

On August 1, 1944, after five years of Nazi rule, the resistance groups in the city rebelled in an effort to overthrow their oppressors.

Within the next few days, around 180,000 Polish civilians were killed, including an estimated 60,000 children, with supplies running low.

Winston Churchill sent over 200 low-level RAF supply drops to the besieged city in an operation known as the Warsaw Airlift.

On August 12, 1944, Mr Auton and his crew flew to Warsaw to drop 12 containers with essential weapons, ammunition and medical supplies.

During a six-hour flight to the beleaguered city, he witnessed one of their aircraft shot down before they found the drop zone.

His crew all agreed they would not return home until the Armia Krajowa (Home Army) soldiers received their supplies.

Speaking previously about the operation, Mr Auton, who wrote a book about liberating the Eastern Front, said: "We must have been mad.

"Planes were being shot down all around us.

"I said we had not come all this way to drop the supplies in the wrong place.

You just felt like a robot and the training took over." Two nights later, he and his crew would return to drop further supplies.

On his 37th military mission, Mr Auton was seriously wounded, suffering damage to his lungs and he lost an eye.

After the war, he became fluent in six languages and was even asked to spy for British intelligence, but refused.

He built a profession in engineering and spent 30 years working alongside both the Polish and Czech presidents.

He also launched his own companies - in the UK and abroad - buying and exporting goods.

He was called a "true friend of Poland" in a letter signed by that country's ambassador in October last year for his role in liberating the country.

Mr Auton received thousands of messages of thanks and support from people in Poland, who recognised his outstanding service during the conflict.

He was also awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland by President Andrzej Duda, which is the highest award a foreigner can receive.

For his wartime bravery, he received 19 medals from countries including France, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

He was also bestowed an MBE from Prince Charles for his charity work, which included raising £3m Air Bridge Association, which he also founded.

In 1989, he was responsible for the creation of the Warsaw Air Bridge Memorial in Newark Cemetery.

The memorial cross was erected to commemorate both the Armia Krajowa and the 250 British, Polish and South African airmen who died in supporting the uprising in Poland.

His wife, Peggy, who died in 2016, is buried by the cross and he has a plot next to her at the church where he was laid to rest this afternoon.




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