THE family of the only Englishman in Second World War hero Andrew Mynarski's crew has given its support to The Northern Echo's Forgotten Hero appeal.

Roy Vigars, from Guildford, Surrey, was only 20 when the Lancaster bomber on which he was flight engineer was shot down by Germans over France on June 13, 1944.

Flight Sergeant Vigars, who died in 1989, aged 65, parachuted from the plane to safety, but was captured three days later and spent 11 months in a German prisoner-of-war camp.

It was only on his return to England after the war that he discovered the bravery of the crew's Canadian mid air gunner, Pilot Officer Mynarski, 27, who died after trying to save the life of a fellow crew member.

Rear gunner Pat Brophy became trapped at the back of the plane and Mynarski crawled through flames to try to rescue him. He was eventually forced to bail out, his flight suit on fire from the waist down.

Mynarski died from extensive burns and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

The Northern Echo aims to raise £40,000 to have an 8ft bronze statue of him erected at Durham Tees Valley Airport, Middleton St George, near Darlington, which was then the Royal Canadian Air Force base from which the crew flew.

Flt Sgt Vigars' son, Jeff, 57, of Mere, Wiltshire, said the campaign was "absolutely brilliant".

"We have just got to make sure people do remember and this will do that," he said. "It's about making sure we don't have to do that sort of thing again."

Mr Vigars' wife Carol said: "I think it's a lovely idea. He (Roy) was proud of knowing Andy for a start and was very close to the crew."

Flt Sgt Vigars' widow Ellen, 80, also praised the appeal. She said: "I think it's wonderful. I think the story is something that should be kept going to make sure people know what happened all those years ago."

Flt Sgt Vigars was brought in from the RAF as a flight engineer because the Canadian crews were trained for planes requiring six men, and the Lancaster needed seven.

He carried out his own act of bravery after the Lancaster was hit, helping another fellow crew member, bomb aimer Jack Friday, to safety.

Mr Vigars said: "Friday had opened the hatch and it came inwards and smashed his head. He was knocked unconscious and my dad had to pull the rip cord and throw him out of the plane."

The pair met days later after both were captured and put in prison in Amiens, before being taken to Germany.