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Jim Auton: Newark's hero of Warsaw Uprising dies

One of only three remaining RAF heroes of the Warsaw Uprising has died.

The Advertiser reported in October how Jim Auton had received thousands of messages of thanks and support from a grateful nation in his time of need.

Mr Auton, 95, of Newark, was praised and called a true friend of Poland in a letter signed by that country's ambassador at a time when his health was grave.

JIM AUTON as a young RAF Serviceman. (27189365)
JIM AUTON as a young RAF Serviceman. (27189365)

In addition, many messages of support and thanks were sent to him via Facebook.

Mr Auton and his comrades were instrumental in the British-led Warsaw Airlift operation, which resupplied the besieged Polish resistance, the Home Army, in their uprising against Nazi Germany during the second world war.

Paul Trickett, Mr Auton's carer, said at the time he was a hero.

JIM AUTON (right) and his friend Tony Parker, another RAF veteran. (27189363)
JIM AUTON (right) and his friend Tony Parker, another RAF veteran. (27189363)

He said the letter from the Polish Ambassador and messages from thousands of Poles sent on Facebook perked Mr Auton up and meant a lot to him.

"If you are in poor health and get thousands of messages coming through from strangers, thanking you for what you did, all those years ago, it's amazing," Paul said.

Kind words sent on Facebook to Jim included that from family members of fellow airmen who knew him.

Mr Auton grew up on RAF airfields in the 1920s and 1930s because his father was a member of ground crew who worked on the maintenance of the RAF's earliest aircraft.

He joined up in 1941 and, having seen the devastation poured on British cities caused by the Luftwaffe, hoped to do his bit.

He wanted to be a Spitfire pilot, but was later re-trained as a bomb-aimer.

At only 20, he flew 37 wartime missions with 178 Squadron, but is best known for his contribution and bravery during the Warsaw Uprising.

On August 1, 1944, after five years of Nazi rule, the resistance in Warsaw rose up in an effort to overthrow their oppressors.

Within the next few days around 180,000 Polish civilians were killed, including an estimated 60,000 children.

The resistance had supplies to last only three days of fighting.

On August 12, 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 beleagured city, he witnessed one of their aircraft shot down before he found the drop zone.

"We must have been mad," Mr Auton told the Advertiser.

"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."

Two nights later, he and his crew would return to drop further supplies.

On his 37th 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.

In 1989, Mr Auton was responsible for the creation of the Warsaw Air Bridge Memorial ­— another name for the airlift ­— in Newark Cemetery, which stands next to the Polish and Commonwealth War Graves section.

The memorial cross was erected to commemorate both the Home Army and the 250 British, Polish and South African airmen who died in support of the freedom fighters of Warsaw.

His wife, Peggy, is buried by the cross and he has a plot next to her.

Mr Auton raised £3m for the Air Bridge Association, which he also founded.

For his wartime bravery, he was awarded 19 medals from different countries including France, Poland and Czechoslavia, as well as, an MBE from Prince Charles for his charity work.

In then letter sent him, Polish Ambassador to the UK, Arkady Rzegocki, said he was uplifted and grateful for the role he played.

Mr Rzegocki wrote: "With the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the second world war, I am all the more grateful that we can celebrate deeds of individuals such as yourself, who did not back away when your fellow human beings were in need.

"You are an example to follow for future generations."

Mr Auton died on Saturday.

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