Tributes have been paid to a war hero who played a vital role in bombarding German defences on D Day.
Flight Lieutenant Austin Hallett, who was awarded an MBE and thrice medalled for his devotion to his country, died on his 94th birthday following a short illness.
The former Blackpool postmaster passed away in Victoria Hospital on the same day the Legion of Honour medal, awarded by the French to thank him for his bravery, was sent out in the post.
His son-in-law Mark Batty said: “I bet very few people who went into his Post Office knew he was decorated in the RAF.”
Born to a farming family in Dorset on November 12, 1921, Flt Lt Hallett’s story had humble beginnings, but he became embroiled in extraordinary adventures that helped to mould modern Britain.
They include rubbing shoulders with the king after being shot by enemy fighter planes, a Land Rover tour of nuclear fallout-hit Hiroshima, and a daring dangle out of his own plane - in mid-air - to cut tangled parachute cords threatening to down the aircraft.
Despite the dramatic tales, the great-grandfather was a ‘modest and gentle man with a clear sense of honour and integrity’, his family said: “But as the stories highlight, he was brave, honest, and tenacious.”
And Blackpool’s very own Sgt Rick Clement, who lost both his legs after stepping on a Taliban bomb in Afghanistan in 2010, said: “There’s not many of these guys left, they are quite literally a dying breed, but they are a breed that should be remembered. The war they were involved in was something someone like me, who has seen modern warfare, can’t comprehend.
“Without Flt Lt Hallett’s efforts - and with 310 hours of mission time he certainly did his bit and 10 times more - I dread to think what it would be like over here.”
Tony Barratt from the South Fylde branch of the RAFA said: “Bomber command had 55,000 men during the war and their life expectancy in 1942 was three weeks.
“Try and imagine what courage it took to go out night after night and fly over enemy territory and to come back and there’s an empty bed, because somebody didn’t come home or has been shot down.
“It must have been horrendous for them but they still went.”
A public funeral service will be held at 12.45pm on Monday at St Annes Parish Church, before a burial at Park Cemetery in Lytham.
Flowers can be sent to Horsfield and Family Funeral Directors in Lytham.