Remains of RAF war hero found in Germany

Arifa Akbar
Tuesday 17 December 2002 01:00

The remains of a missing Second World War hero regarded as one of the best pilots in the RAF have been found in southern Germany.

Wing Commander Adrian Warburton disappeared in April 1944 after taking off from an Oxfordshire air base to photograph German airfields. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said yesterday: "It is definitely Warburton and his next-of-kin, which is his nephew, has been informed."

The remains were discovered in the village of Egling an der Paar, about 30 miles north-east of Munich last month.

Wing Cdr Warburton, who was shot down on 12 April 1944, was one of Britain's most famous wartime pilots, and his heroics were celebrated in the 1953 film The Malta Story starring Alec Guinness in the role of the pilot.

A German historian, acting on information from a British colleague, found wreckage from Wing Cdr Warburton's Lockheed F-5 Lightning as well as several broken and charred bones. The discovery came after Welsh aviation researcher, Frank Dorber, set out to solve the mystery disappearance.

Wing Cdr Warburton'sreconnaissance photographs over the Mediterranean were of vital importance in the Allied advance in North Africa and Italy.

The pictures made possible an attack which sank an Italian fleet at Taranto in November 1940, described by Winston Churchill as "a crippling blow" to the enemy.

His courage also made him a hero in Malta where he was stationed during the Axis siege. The Distinguished Flying Cross that he was awarded bore the inscription, "This officer has never failed". He was also awarded the DSO and received an American DFC from President Roosevelt.

There are plans for an official burial in May at a military cemetery at Tegernsee lake, near the crash site.

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