IT'S the stuff of legend -- a butcher's son from the Yorkshire Dales becomes a wartime hero and is killed at the climax of one of the RAF's most daring exploits.

The story is stirring, moving and true -- and for decades the people Alan Broadley helped to save have remembered and paid tribute to the sacrifice he and others made.

But time inexorably marches on and next week veterans and local alike will gather for the memorial service in the cathedral at Amiens, in northern France, for the 60th and last official time.

Operation Jericho was the name given to the astonishing raid on the city's prison in northern France on February 18, 1944.

Around 700 Resistance workers were being held there and many were due to be executed the following day -- unless they could be rescued.

Their saviours came out of the sky shortly after midday. Nineteen Mosquito fighter-bombers screamed down to tree-top height and blew a gaping hole in the huge wall surrounding the jail.

They were led by Group Captain Charles "Pick" Pickard and his right-hand man Flight Lieutenant Alan Broadley, both already much-decorated for their death-defying missions.

Alan, who had celebrated his 23rd birthday just ten days previously, was born at Leyburn and had attended the Yorebridge and Richmond grammar schools before volunteering for the RAF early in 1939.

Jericho was their last mission. After the walls came tumbling down they were monitoring a stricken Mosquito when they were pounced on by two Focke-Wulf 190s.

Their aircraft's tail was shot away and they crashed and died on snow-covered ground near the village of St Gratien. Both are buried nearby. The raid though had been a success. Some 102 prisoners were killed but almost 270 escaped through the breach and every year since the exploit has been commemorated locally with a procession and service.

However this year's service, on February 22, will be the last official remembrance of the raid and among those making the pilgrimage to Amiens will be Northallerton historian Tony Eaton, the author of a book about Alan Broadley.

"It is good to keep their memories alive, but I suppose there has to be a cut-off point," he said yesterday.

"With the passing of the years it becomes more and more difficult for those who were involved to take part. "We can still remember them in our hearts and our minds - or indeed in person."