CROWDS gathered to pay tribute to the heroism shown and sacrifices made by airmen who flew from a North East base during the Second World War.

The Reverend Colin Lingard led the special service outside The St George Hotel at Durham Tees Valley Airport - the site of the former Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) base at Middleton St George, Darlington.

The service, on Saturday (May 31), recognised the sacrifice made by the 1,266 men who lost their lives carrying out bomber command missions from the base during the war.

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Special mention was given to Canadian officer Andrew Mynarski who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroic attempts to rescue his comrades when their Lancaster was shot down over Dortmund.

Mynarski famously saluted as the plane went down and his statue stands outside the hotel as a permanent homage to his courage.

Betty Amlin, whose late husband Jimmy served with Mynarski, said the RCAF’s contribution to the war effort should never be forgotten.

“As long as I can breathe I will support this service,” she said.

“It has never got to be forgotten.

“All those boys were volunteers. They were only bairns but they soon became men.”

Stan Instone was a flight engineer on Mr Mynarski’s Lancaster and was one of the five crewmembers that survived the wreckage.

Sadly he was too poorly to attend the service but his son Mark travelled up from Slough to represent him.

Mr Instone said: “I think the service is clearly very important for the remaining veterans, but it continues to be a symbol of remembrance for those who were obviously too young to remember it at the time but they are still respecting the sacrifices made many years later.”

The Mynarski Memorial Lancaster is expected to visit Middleton St George when it flies to the UK from Canada this summer and Mr Instone said his father hopes to be well enough to make the journey up to see it.

The memorial weekend was organised by the Middleton St George Memorial Association. RCAF Captain Neils Roggenkamp said it was “a privilege” to attend and represent the Canadian Air Force.

He added: “We need to remember what they fought for - they fought for the future that we enjoy today.

“Events like this show the continued unity between Canada and the UK, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Air Force.”

Other events throughout the weekend included a concert by the Band of the Royal Air Force College at Darlington Civic Theatre and a special dinner at the St George Hotel.