Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Leeds VC holders

I was coming back from a meeting in a very wet Leeds today when I came across a memorial I hadn't thought about for a long time. In front of the Art Gallery on the Headrow is a bronze plaque dedicated to the VC winners who were either born in Leeds or were buried in Leeds.

The name are alphabetical but I want to give you the story of the first name on there, Acting Flight Sergeant Arthur Louis Aaron of the RAF. He was the only winner of the medal from Leeds during World War II.

Arthur Louis Aaron – Flight Sergeant, Age 21 - No.218 Squadron, RAF Volunteer Reserve, Turin, Italy - August 12th 1943

Three engines, the windscreen and the elevator controls of his Stirlling bomber were hit by gunfire. This made the aircraft unstable and very difficult to fly. Aaron and other crewmembers were injured. The navigator was killed. Aaron’s jaw was broken, parts of his face torn away, his lung damaged and right hand unusable. The aircraft dived several thousand feet until he managed to level the aircraft at 3,000 ft. His bomb aimer took control of the aircraft whilst Aaron received medical attention and morphine. Too weak to control the aircraft and unable to speak because of his facial injuries he wrote instructions with his left hand. Aaron died nine hours after the bomber belly landed at Bone airfield in Tunisia.

The mission was his 20th. Arthur Aaron was also the holder of the Distinguished Flying Medal. Because of his lowly rank Flight Sergeant Aaron was not eligibe for the Distinguished Flying Cross, a rank divide that was rectified in 1993 when the DFM was withdrawn and the DFC became available to a ranks.

Born and educated in Leeds, Aaron studied to be an architect and, in March 1941, he became one of 23 cadets who formed the Inaugural Flight of Leeds University Air Squadron.

To mark the millennium a statue to Arthur Louis Aaron was sited on the roundabout close to the West Yorkshire Playhouse at the start of the Headrow.