|The world long remembers, and history will continue to record the names of those great and gifted men who led and inspired the nations in war. Remembrance Day is for all those many, the ordinary and inarticulate legions who followed them, and without fine words did brave and entirely selfless things.
From all these, none is more worthy of being remembered than Flt/Sgt. Aaron. On the night of Aug. 12th 1943 Flt/Sgt. Aaron was captain and pilot of one of 218 (Gold Coast) Squadron's Stirling bombers which had that night been detailed to bomb Turin. (218 was known throughout the war as 'Weston-super-Mare’s own Squadron').
Stirlings with four Bristol Hercules engines were large aeroplanes for those days; the cockpit was 23 feet in the air when the wheels were on the tarmac. Flt/Sgt. Aaron's aircraft No. EF452 and coded “HA-O” took off from Downham Market, Norfolk, and set course across Europe.
All went well until on its run in to the target “HA-O” vvas attacked by fighters. For pressing home the attack with his aircraft on fire, a few weeks before, Flt/Sgt. Aaron had been awarded the D.F.M. Tonight was to be an even sterner test. A devastating burst from a fighter hit three engines, smashed the windscreen and put the front and rear turrets out of action.
The navigator was killed and other crew-members were wounded. A bullet struck Flt/Sgt. Aaron in the face, breaking his jaw and tearing away part of his face. He was also wounded in the lung and the right arm, which was rendered useless. He fell over the control column and sent the aircraft into a steep dive from which the flight engineer pulled them out some 3,000 feet from the ground.
Unable to speak Flt/Sgt. Aaron urged the bomb-aimer by signs to take control and course was set southwards in the hope of flying the crippled bomber to Sicily or N. Africa. Flt/Sgt. Aaron was given morphia and after resting at the back of the aircraft, rallied and mindful of his responsibilities insisted on being helped back to the cockpit.
They lifted him into his seat and placed his feet on the rudder bar. He made great efforts to hold the aircraft to course but his weakness was too great and he was persuaded to vacate his seat. He was in great pain and suffering from exhaustion but he kept writing instructions for the others with his left hand.
Five grim hours passed and petrol was running low, but they were to live up to the Squadron motto “In time”, for soon now the flare-path of Bone airfield in N. Africa was sighted. Summoning his fast-failing strength F/Sgt. Aaron directed the bomb-aimer in the hazardous task of landing in the dark with one engine stopped and the elevator controls damaged. With the wheels retracted four attempts were made and at the fifth Flt/Sgt. Aaron was so near to collapsing that he had to be restrained, and the bomb-aimer completed the landing. Flt/Sgt. Aaron was carried from the aircraft. He had exerted himself to the utmost; he had saved his crew. Nine hours later he died from exhaustion. He was 21.
During the whole period of the War 125,000 men and boys flew with Bomber Command units, and 47,293 perished - young lions devoured by fire and storm. The King awarded 1458181 Acting Flt/Sgt. Arthur Louis Aaron D.F.M. the Victoria Cross for “most conspicuous bravery”. The citation in the fourth supplement to the London Gazette for Tuesday Nov. 2nd 1943 ended with the deeply resonant words, “ln appalling conditions he showed the greatest qualities of courage, determination, and leadership, and though wounded and dying he set an example of devotion to duty which has seldom been equalled and never surpassed”.