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In all, Valentine and his American-built Douglas Boston 111A light-bomber flew 60 combat missions as part of RAF 88 Squadron, 2nd Tactical Air Force, Bomber Command.

Bomber Command pilot Leslie Valentine sits in the Prime Minister's chair in the cabinet room in Downing Street, he met the Prime Minister David Cameron who presented him with a Defence medal for services in the second world war.

Leslie Valentine, born in the East End of Glasgow, was believed to be the last survivor of the dozen RAF light-bomber pilots who swooped only yards above the beaches of Normandy on D-Day to drop smoke canisters as cover for the invading British and allied forces.

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In September 1939, with war declared, he signed up with the HLI – nicknamed “the Glesga Keelies” – and fought with their 2nd Battalion in France until the Dunkirk evacuation.

He reckoned that beating Hitler and liberating France would be best accomplished from the air and so applied for the RAF, undergoing training at Medicine Hat in Alberta, Canada, and later in Blenheim and Boston bombers at RAF Bicester and RAF Finmere, on the border between Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, as part of RAF 13 Operational Unit.

Because he had left the HLI to train as an RAF pilot, he never got his Defence Medal for his service as a Second World War infantryman.

After a radio programme made this fact known, Prime Minister David Cameron personally handed Valentine the Defence Medal in November 2012, when the war veteran was already 94.

One Scottish infantryman later recalled aiming his rifle at one of the low-flying planes until he saw it was a Boston – “E-Easy” – and realised it was “one of ours”. It will never be known how many lives Valentine and his flying comrades saved on that morning of 6 June 1944, D-Day – probably hundreds, possibly thousands – by providing a smoke screen against the German defenders for whom the Allied landing force would otherwise have been sitting ducks.

Two of Valentine’s team were shot down but he and nine of the other planes and crews made it back to their base at RAF Hartford Bridge in Hampshire.

“I’d anticipated that it was going to be a little hairy,” he said years later with his characteristic modesty.

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