One of Britain's most decorated war heroes was today bid an emotional final farewell by hundreds of strangers after he passed away at the age of 95 with no surviving family.
Brave and bombastic British bombardier Jim Auton, MBE, who was awarded a total 19 medals for his brave RAF exploits during the Second World War, died aged 95 on January 18.
He was believed to have been the last British survivor of the perilous Second World War Warsaw Air Bridge mission, an operation sanctioned by the British Government in 1944 to to drop supplies to Polish fighters.
More than 200 people lined the streets to pay tribute to the war veteran at a service held at his local Newark Parish Church, in Newark, Nottinghamshire
RAF top brass this week launched an appeal for mourners to attend his funeral, after fears Mr Auton, who has no surviving family, would not get the fitting send-off he deserved.
Today, more than 200 people lined the streets to pay tribute to the war veteran at a service held at his local Newark Parish Church, in Newark, Nottinghamshire.
He was given an RAF guard of honour as his coffin, draped in the Union Jack, was led into the church by pallbearers which included Air Force officers past and present.
Jim Auton (middle, back row) is pictured with members of the Warsaw Air Bridge, the crew who flew to Warsaw and sent secret supplies to resistance fighters in Poland, 1944
The service began with the song 'Nimrod' by Elgar before tributes were made by Dave Baliolo Key and Leszek Rowicki, the Consul General of Poland in Manchester.
Mr Rowicki, reading a letter from the Polish Government, said: 'I want to express our sorrow. Jim was a friend of the Polish people.He was a hero who served for the benefit of British and Polish people.
'He built bridges between Britain and Poland. I had the honour of meeting him and knowing him personally.'
Jim Auton (pictured) was awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland last year, shortly before his death, by President Andrzej Duda, which is the highest honour a foreigner can receive
'He was a real hero for me. I last saw him in December 2019 where I decorated him with the Order of Merit of Poland on behalf of President Duda.
'He spent 50 minutes circling the city of Warsaw, where he saw the fires and devastation. I would call him a hero and a friend of Poland. I would like to thank Paul Trickett for being his friend and caring for him.'
Reverend Paul Franklin, who presided over the funeral, said gloriously in his eulogy: 'We have come here today to remember Jim. We have come to commit his body to the ground and comfort one another in our grief.
'Jim and I prayed together in his final days. We don't need to fear death or that dark place. We give thanks to Jim for all that was good in his life. We also give thanks for the memories we treasure today.'
Mr Auton previously said: 'Being a pilot in the Royal Air Force was the only thing I wanted to do with my life. As a youngster, I used to pretend I was flying a plane and as soon as I could I joined up. It's all any lad my age wanted to do... to become part of that elite members' club - the flyers, the men at the very top of the chain'
Mr Auton risked his life twice to carry out daring low-level drops of supplies during the 68-day 1944 Warsaw Uprising, a revolt against Nazi occupation that cost the lives of 18,000 Polish fighters and 180,000 civilians.
He flew 37 wartime missions with the 178 Squadron and was awared 19 medals for bravery and valour, making him one of Britain's most decorated