WW2 Spitfire pilot to get official military hero's burial - after 74 years

2019/03/1553199094.jpg
Read: 482     09:12     22 March 2019    

A Second World War hero killed when his Spitfire was shot down by enemy fire is to be given a military funeral 74 years after his death.


The service for RAF Warrant Officer John Henry Coates of 111 Squadron will be attended by 22 members of his family.


The fighter pilot, known as Harry, was declared missing in action on a dawn raid in Italy, part of operations to drive out Nazi Germany’s forces.

He was protecting bombers targeting barges near Venice on March 5, 1945, when anti-aircraft flak hit his Spitfire PT410, which plummeted to earth and exploded on impact.

His name was engraved on the Malta War Memorial to 2,298 Commonwealth air crew killed in battles around the Mediterranean but with no known graves.

Then in October 2017 his remains were discovered by Romagna Air Finders, an organisation that recovers WW2 aircraft. His identity was confirmed in a DNA comparison involving a relative.

UK defence staff, regimental representatives and local dignitaries will also be at the burial service. His niece Helen Watts, whose mother Molly Dearlove was his younger sister, said: “My siblings and I grew up knowing our uncle had gone missing towards the end of the war.

“It’s amazing that he was found all these years later.” Helen, 65 – who still lives in York, where her uncle was born – added: “We expect the funeral to be very moving.” Another of Harry’s nieces, Shelagh Coates, 70, said: “It is a great honour for us finally to lay him to rest.”

Harry volunteered for the RAF and trained as a pilot even though he was in a reserved occupation as a railways draughtsman. On the day of his death he should have been on leave – but swapped duties to fly on the mission.

Hero Battle of Britain pilot finally back in cockpit at 99 - in flight simulator
 Romagna group member Alessandro Voltolina, 48, was working on the recovery of another aircraft when the son of an eyewitness told him of Harry’s crash.

He said: “It is always a matter of great satisfaction when all your efforts are rewarded. Mr Coates may now rest with all the youngsters who lost their lives in Italy and are too often forgotten.

“I hope that this means much happiness for his family.

“He has become a pilot killed in action rather than a pilot missing in action. His story now has an ending.”

 

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WW2 Spitfire pilot to get official military hero's burial - after 74 years

2019/03/1553199094.jpg
Read: 483     09:12     22 March 2019    

A Second World War hero killed when his Spitfire was shot down by enemy fire is to be given a military funeral 74 years after his death.


The service for RAF Warrant Officer John Henry Coates of 111 Squadron will be attended by 22 members of his family.


The fighter pilot, known as Harry, was declared missing in action on a dawn raid in Italy, part of operations to drive out Nazi Germany’s forces.

He was protecting bombers targeting barges near Venice on March 5, 1945, when anti-aircraft flak hit his Spitfire PT410, which plummeted to earth and exploded on impact.

His name was engraved on the Malta War Memorial to 2,298 Commonwealth air crew killed in battles around the Mediterranean but with no known graves.

Then in October 2017 his remains were discovered by Romagna Air Finders, an organisation that recovers WW2 aircraft. His identity was confirmed in a DNA comparison involving a relative.

UK defence staff, regimental representatives and local dignitaries will also be at the burial service. His niece Helen Watts, whose mother Molly Dearlove was his younger sister, said: “My siblings and I grew up knowing our uncle had gone missing towards the end of the war.

“It’s amazing that he was found all these years later.” Helen, 65 – who still lives in York, where her uncle was born – added: “We expect the funeral to be very moving.” Another of Harry’s nieces, Shelagh Coates, 70, said: “It is a great honour for us finally to lay him to rest.”

Harry volunteered for the RAF and trained as a pilot even though he was in a reserved occupation as a railways draughtsman. On the day of his death he should have been on leave – but swapped duties to fly on the mission.

Hero Battle of Britain pilot finally back in cockpit at 99 - in flight simulator
 Romagna group member Alessandro Voltolina, 48, was working on the recovery of another aircraft when the son of an eyewitness told him of Harry’s crash.

He said: “It is always a matter of great satisfaction when all your efforts are rewarded. Mr Coates may now rest with all the youngsters who lost their lives in Italy and are too often forgotten.

“I hope that this means much happiness for his family.

“He has become a pilot killed in action rather than a pilot missing in action. His story now has an ending.”

 

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