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Salute to Stourport RAF war hero
AN EMOTIONAL tribute has been paid to an RAF crew - which included a Stourport war hero - on board a plane shot down over a Belgian town during the Second World War.
Sergeant Arthur Beard was a navigator on the Halifax JD371, which was attacked on August 28, 1943, near Modave, where residents and civic dignitaries were joined in August by special guests for a remembrance event to mark 70 years since the incident.
The eight-man 77 RAF Squadron crew, of which just two including Mr Beard survived the crash, were posthumously made honorary citizens of Modave and were honoured at the town hall and at Modave cemetery.
Marc Lambotte, one of the organisers and member of the group Remember JD371, said: “It was fantastic. It was a very great human adventure. The ceremony was very emotional and it was more than we would hope.
“The contact with the families was fantastic and a lot of people wanted to help us to commemorate the crew.”
Guests at the event included family of some of the airmen, Modave civic dignitaries, deputy UK ambassador to Belgium Katrina Johnson and chairman of the 77 Squadron Association William Foote.
Representatives made speeches, laid flowers and the national anthems of the UK and Belgium were played.
The Halifax took off from Yorkshire on August 27, 1943, on a bombing mission to Nuremberg, Germany but was intercepted on the way back by a Messerschmitt Me-110 fighter plane and the crew was given the order to bail out of the plane under attack.
Mr Beard was picked up and escaped down the Comet line – a resistance group in Belgium and France which helped allied troops get home — through Belgium, France and Spain before returning to England.
Mr Beard, a father of two, died in 1991 from pneumonia, aged 77, he was chairman of Stourport Urban Borough Council in 1973 and was town mayor after Stourport Town Council was set up in 1974.
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