John Henry Coates was just 24 years old when his Spitfire was shot down in Italy in 1945 in the final months of the Second World War. Now 74 years on, the York-born airman has finally been laid to rest following a moving military funeral in Padua.
The warrant officer had been a draughtsman on the London and North Eastern Railway before volunteering for the war effort and was declared missing in action after his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire while participating in a dawn raid.
His immediate family all died without knowing how or where he was killed but in October 2017, his remains were discovered by an organisation that searches for Second World War aircraft.
Yesterday’s service in Italy, attended by his family members along with British Defence staff, Commonwealth War Graves Commission staff and local dignitaries, was a fitting tribute to a young man who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country in the fight against fascism.