Hundreds of strangers turn out for the funeral of decorated Second World War hero

Hundreds turned out to remember Second World hero Jim Auton, who died aged 95 last month (SWNS)

Hundreds of mourners have paid their respects at the funeral of a decorated Second World War hero after an appeal for attendees by fellow veterans.

Jim Auton was awarded 19 medals and hailed a "friend of Poland" for his role in the Warsaw Air Bridge missions, in which supplies were dropped to Polish resistance fighters.

When he died last month, with no surviving relatives, veteran groups put out an appeal for people to attend the service in Newark, Lincolnshire, on Thursday.

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

Tributes were made by key figures from the RAF 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.”

Jim Auton as a young cadet, right, and more recently, left (SWNS)

Reverend Paul Franklin, who presided over the funeral, told the congregation of more than 200 people: “We have come here today to remember Jim. We give thanks to Jim for all that was good in his life. We also give thanks for the memories we treasure today.”

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.

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

Bomb aimer Jim Auton was given an RAF guard of honour as his coffin, draped in the Union flag, was led into the church by pallbearers which included Air Force officers past and present (SWNS)

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

He had said of his experiences: "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.”

On 12 August 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.

Jim Auton was was one of the last surviving British participants of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 during the Second World War (SWNS)

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."

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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.

The funeral of war hero Jim Auton, who had no remaining family when he died last month, aged 95 (SWNS)

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

He was awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland by president Andrzej Duda – the highest award a foreigner can receive.

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

Mr Auton was buried after the service at Newark Cemetery next to his wife Peggy, who died in 2016.