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RAF hero honoured in Belgium

12:20 13/08/2013

A war hero from Strourport, Worcestershire who was on board a plane shot down over Belgium during the Second World War will be remembered at a special event to mark 70 years since the incident, writes the Shuttle’s William Tomaney. Sergeant Arthur Beard was a navigator on the Halifax JD371, which was attacked on August 28, 1943, near the village of Modave, Liège province, while returning from a bombing mission. Of the eight-man crew from 77 RAF Squadron, only three, including Beard survived. He went missing for 10 weeks after the incident until November 6, when he returned home to Britain. His family had no communication with him during the ordeal and had only received a telegram to say his plane had been shot down. Now locals in Modave, who set up a group to honour the crew, plan to mark the 70th anniversary of the crash with a memorial event in the village on Wednesday, August 28. Guests will include British Ambassador to Belgium Jonathan Brenton, standard bearers, civic dignitaries and family members of the crew. Beard died in 1991 from pneumonia, aged 77. “I am very proud of what he did,“ said his daughter, Brenda Cooper. “It was wonderful but he never spoke about it much at home. It was a job that had to be done and he was thankful to the kind people who helped him and got him back home.”

On August 27, 1943, the plane took off from Elvington, Yorkshire, targeting Nuremberg, Germany. On the way back the Halifax was intercepted by a Messerschmitt Me-110 fighter plane. Immediately following the attack, pilot Augustine Brannigan gave the order to bail out of the Halifax, which became a fireball and crashed into a field just outside Moldave. 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. He was awarded the prestigious Distinguished Flying Medal at Buckingham Palace by King George VI in 1944. He went on to become a member of Stourport Urban Borough Council and was chairman of the authority in 1973. When Stourport Town Council was set up in 1974, he was elected mayor.

Written by The Bulletin