Last D-Day light bomber pilot Leslie Valentine dies

Flying Officer Leslie Valentine Flying Officer Leslie Valentine was 19 when he joined the forces at the outbreak of war in 1939

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A veteran thought to be the last British World War Two light bomber pilot has died, aged 95.

RAF Flying Officer Leslie Valentine, from Hethe, Oxfordshire, took part in the D-Day invasion in 1944.

He returned to the Normandy beaches in France last May as guest of honour at an Armistice Day commemoration.

His son Dudley Valentine said: "He came back very, very proud and poignant and talked about [WW2] probably more than he had ever talked about it before."

He added: "It wasn't until the last perhaps 10 years that he ever really spoke about it. He certainly never spoke about it with the family.

"We knew that he had done 60 operations back-to-back, which was very unusual.

"He still didn't open up totally about it until a couple of years ago. He was a very private man at the best of times during his life."

Mr Valentine was called up for military service at the age of 19 at the outbreak of war.

"He was the kind of man who would do things for other people and who spoke very highly of other people, but stepped out of the limelight himself and into the background," said his son.

"The world is a bit of a sadder place without a chap like him around. He was the kind of man you would be proud to have as a father."

Leslie Valentine receiving the Defence Medal from Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street Leslie Valentine received the Defence Medal from Prime Minister David Cameron

He played a vital role in the Allied invasion on 6 June 1944, by laying smoke over the beaches to shield the forces from enemy fire.

Then aged 24, he flew his Douglas Boston E Easy light bomber 50ft (15m) above the Normandy shoreline amid a barrage from Royal Navy gunships and German 88 heavy artillery defences.

Two aircraft were lost on the mission but Mr Valentine returned safely to 88 Squadron base's at RAF Hartford Bridge in Hampshire.

During the war Mr Valentine carried out many other sorties across France, sabotaging supply lines to disrupt transport of enemy reinforcements.

The D-Day landings

View from a barge dropping troops on D-Day

The Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, codenamed Operation Overlord, took three years of meticulous planning by the Allied forces. A naval and aerial bombardment supported the main amphibious assault to drive the Germans out of occupied France.

The coastline chosen for the invasion, running from Carentan in the west to Caen in the east, was divided into five beaches. A series of prefabricated piers - used to roll equipment and supplies ashore - stretched seven miles along the coast. The first day of the assault ended with 150,000 men onshore, but this came with the loss of 2,500 men. It marked the beginning of the end of the war in Europe.

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