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French pay tribute to WWII hero pilot

PUBLISHED: 16:04 05 August 2009 | UPDATED: 10:56 23 August 2010

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A YOUNG RAF pilot, hailed a forgotten hero , after his death during a daring attack on a German munitions train has been honoured in France. On Sunday the wartime contribution by Gravesend-born Flying Officer Harold (Jack) Ayliffe was remembered at his

A YOUNG RAF pilot, hailed a 'forgotten hero', after his death during a daring attack on a German munitions train has been honoured in France.

On Sunday the wartime contribution by Gravesend-born Flying Officer Harold (Jack) Ayliffe was remembered at his grave and monument in Limon.

The special service was attended by residents from Limon and nearby Feugarolles, in the Lot-Garonne region.

Terry Dennett, secretary of the Royal Air Forces Association French branch, said: "He was reported missing on operational duty over enemy territory on August 4, 1944.

"But whilst his brave exploits have been recorded in military annals many from Gravesend remain unaware that his brave exploits live on amongst the village people in the area where he was finally laid to rest.

"Under a blazing sun, Jack Ayliffe's ultimate selfless sacrifice was remembered by the loyal folk of a French village which he helped ultimately to liberate."

The service was held to commemorate the flying ace's tragic death in his Mosquito aircraft 65 years ago.

Navigator, Flying Officer Jack Ayliffe, then 24, died whilst his aircraft was attacking several munitions trains containing shells for heavy calibre guns. As a result of the attack the trains exploded throughout that night, destroying almost everything on board.

He was born in Gravesend and was the son of Mr Harold and Mrs Doreen Ayliffe.

Attached to 151 Squadron, FO Ayliffe flew Mosquitoes based at RAF Colerne in Wiltshire and a monument in Limon was erected by residents in 2004 to mark the 60th anniversary of his death.

Mr Dennett added: "There are many monuments to resistance fighters who were killed in the area and the French still commemorate faithfully their war dead. Flowers are laid at these small memorial stones often placed at the side of a road. The Lot-Garonne is full of stories about the wartime years.

"The Mosquito aircraft attacked munitions trains containing shells for heavy calibre guns. As a result of the attack the trains exploded all night and there was very little left of them in the morning."

Representatives of the British Consulate in Bordeaux and the Royal Air Forces Association of Sud-Ouest France Branch attended the annual commemoration. They were joined by bout 40 French dignitaries, 120 residents and a further 20 Brits who live in the area.

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