A courageous French pilot is being commemorated for his heroism on the night he defended a city from a German bomb strike.

Over April and May 1942 a series of bombing raids was carried out by the German Luftwaffe across Britain, targeting centres of national cultural significance. This was planned as retaliation for two RAF strikes in Germany.

The British had bombed Lübeck and Rostock in March, destroying much of its prized medieval architecture. What followed has come to be known as the ‘Baedeker Raids’. The Luftwaffe picked out cities across Britain, using Baedeker’s Guide to Britain, in an attempt to destroy churches, universities, and famous landmarks.

These cities included Bath, Exeter, Norwich, Canterbury, and York, resulting in more than 3,000 devastating human losses.

But it was flying over York in an RAF Hurricane IIC Night Fighter on the night of April 29, 1942, that 23 year old French fighter pilot, Yves Mahé of the 253 Squadron, successfully shot down a threatening German bomber.

Now, the largest aviation museum in the UK is commemorating his bravery with a new exhibit.

The Yorkshire Air Museum in Elvington near York has remodelled its existing replica of a Hurricane IIC Night Fighter into an exact copy of the plane flown by Mahé on the night of his incredible defence.

The replica of a Hurricane IIC Night Fighter has been remodelled into an exact copy of the plane flown by Yves Mahé The replica of a Hurricane IIC Night Fighter has been remodelled into an exact copy of the plane flown by Yves Mahé (Image: YORKSHIRE AIR MUSEUM)

With the help of the museum’s volunteers, the replica has been repainted in the distinctive black of night fighter aircraft. In addition, members of York College’s Engineering Department supported the commemorative project by producing replicas of the powerful cannons that shot down the bomber.

Gary Hancock, Yorkshire Air Museum’s Head of Aviation Conservation remarked: “Our team of volunteers have done a stunning job of recreating the look of the original aircraft that came to York’s defence and the York College tutors lent their expertise in milling replica barrels for our dummy cannons.

“We even used sections of redundant fire extinguishers to make them look genuine. The result is simply stunning and is a great tribute to Yves Mahé.”

Yves Mahe defended York, and other cities, from German bombersYves Mahe bravely defended York from a German bomber (Image: CONTRIBUTOR)

At the time, the brave young pilot was commended for his service by the City of York, receiving a civic reception at the Mansion House where they raised the Lorraine Cross flag and named him a ‘Citizen of Honour’. More recently, he was commemorated by York Civic Trust in 2014 with a plaque bearing his name on Coney Street in the city.

In November 1942, Yves was shot down as he flew over the Russian front and taken as a prisoner of war by the Germans. He attempted to escape imprisonment, but was caught and condemned to death by the camp’s commander. Fellow prisoners hid him and he survived the war.

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However, in 1962, Yves was shot down over the Ardennes whilst flying a Gloster Meteor Night Fighter jet and tragically killed.

Yorkshire Air Museum’s replica will now stand in pride of place outside the museum’s main entrance for visitors to remember Yves’s incredible defence and pay respect to his memory.

Yorkshire Air Museum in Elvington, York is open seven days a week, 10am to 5pm. Entry tickets cost £16 for adults, £7 for children, with discounts for students and military veterans, with carers and children entering for free.