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Charity arranges funeral of war veteran and ‘true friend of Poland’

Charity arranges funeral of war veteran and ‘true friend of Poland’


12 Feb, 2020

A highly decorated RAF veteran who took part in a major Second World War operation aimed at liberating Warsaw has been given a military funeral including a fly-past, thanks to a national charity …

Former RAF Bomb Aimer Jim Auton, who died last month aged 95, had no known family, so the Royal Air Forces Association stepped in to help arrange his funeral. Jim had been a member of the RAF Association, the charity that supports the well-being of the RAF family, for decades, so volunteers at his local Newark branch, along with employees, joined with Jim’s friend and carer, Paul Trickett, to arrange the funeral.

The RAF Association liaised with senior RAF officers, who arranged for the Queen’s Colour Squadron to carry Jim’s coffin into church. Personnel from RAF College Cranwell, RAF Waddington and RAF Scampton, including a bugler, also attended the service. An RAF fly-past from RAF Waddington was also planned. 

Jim was understood to be the last surviving British member of the 1944 Warsaw Air Bridge – an allied air forces operation to drop supplies to the Polish resistance. The dramatic 63-day battle cost the lives of more than 150,000 civilians and destroyed large parts of the city. 

Jim was wounded during his 37th mission with 178 Squadron at the age of 20, and lost the sight in his right eye. After the war, he was awarded 20 medals by six different countries, including the Polish Presidential Gold Order of Merit and the Soviet Union War Veterans’ Medal. 

Paul Trickett, who cared for Jim for many years, says: ‘He was a truly remarkable man with many stories to tell. He was proud of what he and his comrades did for the people of Warsaw. He campaigned tirelessly for military charities, and for the Warsaw Air Bridge to be properly remembered.’ 

After the war, Jim became an entrepreneur and exported goods around the world. He also helped to raise substantial amounts of money for military charities, for which he received an MBE in 2000.

When he became seriously ill last year, he received a letter from the Polish Ambassador calling him ‘a true friend of Poland’, along with thousands of messages of support from Polish nationals via social media. 

Ailsa Gough, divisional manager for the RAF Association, continues: ‘The actions of Jim and his RAF comrades were instrumental in the struggle for freedom in Warsaw and, as the charity that supports the RAF family, we wanted to ensure he received a fitting funeral.’ 

Phil Gough, chairman of the RAF Association’s Newark and District Branch Club, adds: ‘Jim was a dedicated Association member who regularly attended our coffee mornings and made friends with other veterans. He was a lovely man, and we will all miss him.’ 

Jim’s funeral took place at Newark Parish Church and he was then buried in Newark Cemetery beside his wife of 70 years, Peggy, who died in 2016. Their burial plot is close to the Warsaw Air Bridge Memorial, which Jim campaigned for and helped to plan in 1989. 

For more information about the RAF Association, click here

About the Royal Air Forces Association 

The Royal Air Forces Association (or RAF Association) is a membership organisation and registered charity that has been providing welfare support to the RAF family for 90 years.

The Association recognises that RAF personnel and their immediate families dedicate their lives to their country, and we believe that such a sacrifice should not result in any form of suffering. Our initiatives provide practical, emotional and financial support to tackle loneliness, isolation, worry and poverty among all generations of RAF personnel and their immediate family members. 

In 2018 alone we helped more than 85,000 members of the RAF family. They benefited from our wide range of services, including befriending, mental health awareness courses, professional childcare training for spouses, bespoke casework support and help to secure emergency grants. 

Our refurbishment of RAF contact houses enables serving personnel to spend quality time with their families, and our provision of free Wi-Fi on stations helps personnel to stay in touch with loved ones. 

The RAF Association, through its wholly owned company, RAFA Kidz, also provides affordable nursery places for the children of RAF parents, who may frequently be relocated in their jobs and could otherwise struggle to find appropriate childcare. 

Our membership of more than 70,000 includes serving RAF personnel, veterans, and members of the public who want to show their support for the work that we do. 

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