Remarkable story of Leeds war hero Arthur Aaron inspires city museum tribute

He was the courageous Leeds airman whose extraordinary bravery under fire saw him awarded the nation’s highest military honour.

By Georgina Morris
Wednesday, 14th August 2019, 4:22 pm
Victoria Cross recipient war hero Arthur Aaron waiting to fly (far right).
Victoria Cross recipient war hero Arthur Aaron waiting to fly (far right).

And this week a striking new artistic tribute has seen war hero Arthur Aaron immortalised at Leeds City Museum.

For the first time ever, a new maquette of the Victoria Cross recipient has gone on show to the public at the museum as part of a display which looks back at his life, legacy andaccomplishments.

The maquette was originally made as part of a local campaign to create a lasting legacy for Flight Sergeant Aaron, led by brothers Stewart and Michael Manning, whose father Cyril attended Roundhay School alongside him as a young boy before the Second World War.

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Victoria Cross recipient war hero Arthur Aaron waiting to fly (far right).

The display also includes Flt Sgt Aaron’s VC, other medals and a collection of objects highlighting the efforts of those who struggled, fought and died in the Second World War.

Born and educated in Leeds, Arthur enlisted in the RAF in 1941 before being promoted to Flight Sergeant in 1943, flying on more than 20 bombing missions over Europe alongside hiscrew.

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Skill, determination and courage in the face of the enemy

Exhibitions curator Ruth Martin with Flight Sergeant Arthur Aaron's war medals. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

On August 13, 1943 he was captain of a short Stirling heavy bomber that came under heavy fire whilst on a sortie to Turin, killing the plane’s navigator and a number of other crewmenwhilst Flt Sgt Aaron himself lost the use of his right arm and part of his face.

Determined to save his remaining crew despite his horrific injuries, severe injuries, Flt Sgt Aaron directed the stricken plane towards North Africa, returning to the cockpit to rally his fellowairmen and help them through a hazardous landing at Bône airfield, Algeria.

Nine hours after the landing, Flt Sgt Aaron collapsed and died of exhaustion. He was buried with full military honours at Bône Military Cemetery.

Awarded the VC posthumously, Sir Arthur Harris, commander-in-chief of RAF Bomber Command, wrote a letter to his parents which said: “In my opinion, never, even in theannals of the RAF, has the VC been awarded for skill, determination and courage in the face of the enemy of a higher order than that displayed by your son on his last flight.”

Exhibitions curator Ruth Martin views the maquette for the memorial statue of Arthur Louis Aaron, VC, sculpted by Graeme Ibbeson in 2001. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

Flt Sgt Aaron was the only Leeds servicemen to be awarded the VC in the Second World War.

A shining example of immeasurable bravery

Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said: “Arthur Aaron’s remarkable story has stood through the decades as a shining example of the immeasurable bravery displayedthe many Leeds servicemen who gave their lives in service of their country.“It is fitting that his courage and accomplishments are celebrated in a display which recognises his important place in the history or our city and expresses our continuedgratitude for all that he and others did for us.”

A letter to Father Christmas from Arthur Aaron, aged five. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The Arthur Aaron display can be seen for free in the museum’s Leeds Story gallery.

Support for St Gemma's Hospice

Michael and Stewart Manning have created a fund at St Gemma’s Hospice Leeds to help finance the hospice’s The Family Support Team.

On November 11, a commemorative brick for Flt Sgt Aaron will be unveiled in the St Gemma’s Wall of Light, an area of tranquillity and peace, where patients, visitors, and familymembers can sit in quiet contemplation.

Arthur Aarron with picture at No1 British Flying Training School (top left).
A letter from Air Chief Marshall Sir Arthur Harris to Arthur Aaron's parents in 1943. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Celebrating the opening of the new display about Flight Sergeant Aaron, the only Leeds servicemen to be awarded the Victoria Cross in the Second World War.Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe