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Charity arranges funeral of war veteran and “true friend of Poland”

A highly-decorated RAF veteran who took part in a major Second World War operation aimed at liberating Warsaw was given a military funeral this month including a fly-past, thanks to a national charity.

Hundreds of people turned out for the funeral in Newark of former RAF Bomb Aimer Jim Auton, who died in January aged 95 and had no known family.

Jim had been a member of the Royal Air Forces Association, the charity that supports the wellbeing of the RAF family, for decades, so volunteers at his local Newark Branch, along with employees, joined with Jim’s friend and carer, Paul Trickett, to arrange the funeral.

The RAF Association liaised with senior RAF officers who arranged for the Queen’s Colour Squadron to carry Jim’s coffin into church. Personnel from RAF College Cranwell, RAF Waddington and RAF Scampton, including a bugler, also attended the service.

Jim was understood to be the last surviving British member of the 1944 Warsaw Air Bridge – an allied air forces operation to drop supplies to the Polish Resistance. The dramatic 63-day battle cost the lives of over 150,000 civilians and destroyed large parts of the city.

Jim was wounded during his 37th mission with 178 Squadron at the age of 20, and lost the sight in his right eye. After the war, he was awarded 20 medals by six different countries, including the Polish Presidential Gold Order of Merit and the Soviet Union War Veterans’ Medal.

Paul Trickett, who cared for Jim for many years, said:

He was a truly remarkable man with many stories to tell. He was proud of what he and his comrades did for the people of Warsaw.

He campaigned tirelessly for military charities, and for the Warsaw Air Bridge to be properly remembered.

After the war, Jim became an entrepreneur and exported goods around the world. He also helped to raise substantial amounts of money for military charities, for which he received an MBE in 2000.

When he became seriously ill last year, he received a letter from the Polish Ambassador calling him “a true friend of Poland”, along with thousands of messages of support from Polish nationals via social media.

Ailsa Gough, Divisional Manager for the RAF Association, said:

The actions of Jim and his RAF comrades were instrumental in the struggle for freedom in Warsaw, and, as the charity that supports the RAF family, we wanted to ensure he received a fitting funeral.

Phil Gough, Chairman of the RAF Association’s Newark and District Branch Club, said:

Jim was a dedicated Association member who regularly attended our coffee mornings and made friends with other veterans. He was a lovely man, and we will all miss him.

Photo: Jim Auton in wartime

 

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