How St Gemma's Hospice is helping bring home a Victoria Cross Leeds war hero

In appalling conditions he showed the greatest qualities of courage, determination and leadership and, though wounded and dying, he set an example of devotion to duty which has seldom been equalled and never surpassed

Wednesday, 13th November 2019, 6:00 am

These were the words bestowed upon a war hero following a fateful night in the depths of conflict in World War Two.

A Stirling aircraft detailed to attack Turin was hit by enemy fire and a bullet struck Flight Sergeant Arthur Louis Aaron in the face. It broke his jaw, tore away part of his face, wounded him in the lung and rendered his right arm useless.

However, the Leeds born hero refused to leave the cockpit and for the next five hours instructed, piloted and oversaw the eventual landing of the stricken aircraft.

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Unveiling of brick for Arthur Louis Arron at St Gemmas Hospice, Leeds. Pictured from the left are Dr Stewart Manning, ,Louise Escott, Michael Manning.

He died nine hours later and after his death was awarded the Victoria Cross - the highest possible accolade in the British system.

That was in 1943 and this week, following nationwide acts of remembrance, there was another service to salute a fallen Leeds hero.

Arthur Louis Aaron's name has been included in the Walls of Light at St Gemma's Hospice and a fund has been set up in his name which to pay for a Family Support Unit at the hospice on Harrogate Road.

Retired GP Dr Stewart Manning orchestrated the honour to create a local point of remembrance for Arthur who is buried in Algeria where the Stirling eventually landed and who has close personal connections to Dr Manning.

The glass brick at St Gemma's Hospice.

His father and Arthur were good friends at school in Roundhay where they both grew up and Dr Manning recalls his father saying how much he hated the war but was lucky to return home when his pal didn't make it.

Dr Manning said: "There is no family here and I wanted to bring the statue of him to Roundhay but that was not feasible so we created 'The Bring Him Home' campaign and commemorated him in the wall of light.

"As well as putting a glass brick in for him we put one in for my mum and dad next to him so it is symbolic of bringing him home. He is a hero and to be able to fly and land a plane at 21, with his injuries is unbelievable."

The official citation for the VC also reveals that unable to speak, the Flight Sergeant urged the bomb aimer by signs to take over the controls with a plan to fly the plane, which was now an engine down, to Sicily or North Africa.

The Victoria Cross and an image of Arthur Aaron.

He was taken to the back of the plane and given morphia before insisting on returning to the cockpit and twice attempting to take control but was too injured. He continued to help by writing directions with his left hand and five hours after the incident Bone airfield was sighted. Four attempts were made under his direction to land the plane and on the fifth Flight Sergeant Aaron was so close to collapse he had to be restrained by crew and the landing was completed by the bomb aimer.

Nine hours after landing, Flight Sergeant Aaron died from exhaustion but would probably have survived had he rested after his initial injury.