Tributes paid to RAF war hero

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AN RAF war hero whose crew survived 43 bombing missions across occupied land and into Germany has died.

Second World War veteran Donald Beaumont, 88, flew with the 635 squadron, known as the Pathfinders - and was awarded a medal by the King for his courage and devotion to duty.

He was born in Cleckheaton in 1922 and grew up with his parents Allen and Florence, and sisters Jean and Freda.

After school he worked as a welder for a short time before deciding to enlist in the RAF.

He trained as a wireless operator at Elvington Airfield, York, and was enlisted to elite bombing command the Pathfinders.

His son Nick said: “The lifespan of an aircraft was three flights and Flying Officer John Bourassa and his squadron flew 43 missions without losing a single man - which was completely unheard of.”

Mr Beaumont was flying on March 30 and 31, 1944, later dubbed Black Thursday after 98 aircraft were missing, 565 airmen were killed in action and 61 airmen were captured as prisoners of war.

Nick said: “On their way back from Nuremberg, having being hit by enemy flak, dad persuaded the skipper, Johnny Bourassa, to change course to avoid further enemy fire, but this meant using more fuel. Their fuel ran out over the Wash in East Anglia. Bourassa somehow managed to glide the massive Lancaster in to land, the under carriage and wings shot to bits.

“Having witnessed a lot of aircraft shot down, you would think they would be terrified of going out again - but within days they were back.”

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross but was serving abroad and did not meet King George VI. However he was later invited to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Nick said: “He was a very unassuming person and he never talked about the war. Growing up I knew he was in the RAF and had gone through an awful lot but I had no idea.”

He married his late wife Barbara in 1944 and the couple had their first child, Tim, in 1950. They went on to have two more sons, Nick and the late Andrew, and a daughter, Jane. After he was demobbed in 1946 he worked as an engineer at David Brown making parts for tanks.

A lifelong Huddersfield Town supporter, the sports fan even bought a house overlooking Heckmondwike Cricket Field so he could watch every match. He spent his last years in Fountain Drive, Roberttown.

He died on March 31 and the author of a book written about the 635 Pathfinders Squadron, Christopher Coverdale, gave a eulogy at his funeral at Dewsbury Crematorium. Family friend, comedian Jim Davidson, and former Huddersfield Town manager Peter Jackson both sent messages of condolence.

He leaves Nick, Tim, Jane, and grandchildren Ricky, Jack, Lottie, Lucy, Beth and Joe.