TODAY has been a day of remembering at the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington.

It was on this day 80 years ago that Bomber Command's 77 Squadron took up station at the newly-opened RAF Elvington air base.

Many of the young men who served - as pilots, gunners and other air crew - didn't survive the war. They were shot down in missions over France, Germany or Poland. In some cases, their bodies were never recovered.

But today, scores of relatives of those young men came to Elvington to remember them - and to attend a memorial service in their honour.

They were men like twin brother Paul and John Braund. Both Halifax pilots stationed at Elvington, both were tragically killed within a month of each other, in January and February 1945, aged just 22. Their crews - each Halifax bomber had a crew of 7 - died with them.

Among John's crew was rear gunner Reginald Walter Lambert. He, too, was a young man - the 'baby of the family', said his newhew Adrian Butterfiel, who was among those who attended today.

Reginald's parents (Adrian's grandparents) never really talked about the son they had lost, Adrian said. "But my granddad's hair turned white overnight. It absolutely devastated him."

York Press: A Halifax bomber in actionA Halifax bomber in action (Image: Unknown)

Raymond LeForte was John Braund's flight engineer on that last, fateful mission. He'd flown 10 missions or so, and was still short of his 20th birthday when he died.

Raymond's newphew Paul LeForte was also among those at Elvington today.

He believes the aircraft was on its way home after dropping sea-mines around the Danish coast, when it was shot down by a German Junkers 88. "I'm very proud of him," Paul said. "He was 18 when he volunteered, and just under 20 when he died."

Hundreds of young men with 77 Squadron lost their lives in bombing raids during the war.

In one three-month period alone, at the height of the 'Battle of Berlin' from December 1943 to February 1944, the squadron carried out 143 sorties - and lost 19 aircraft on operations, plus one in an accident. In all, in those three months, 103 aircrew from Elvington were killed or listed as missing believed dead, and 35 were taken prisoner of war. The Squadron strength dropped to almost half its establishment.

Rachael Semlyen, the communications officer of 77 Squadron Association as well as Chair of the Trustees of the Yorkshire Air Museum, said the casualty rate was always hisghest among new recruits. Young crews tended to survive for about eight missions on average, she said - or about three and a half weeks. If they got past that initial period, they had a better chance of surving.

One who did was rear gunner Derek Oakley.

His daughter Theresa, who was at Elvington today with her son Felix, said her father flew 33 missions in all.

York Press: Stephen LewisStephen Lewis (Image: Stephen Lewis)

He, like other aircrew in the squadron, had been a volunteer who signed up for 30 missions. But he then kept going.

He didn't talk much about his war service, she admitted - and when he did, it was never about how scared he felt. "He used to say 'we just got onb with it!'" she said.

But he never forgot the intense feeling of comradeship that flying those missions forged, she said.

He survived the war, was demobbed in Ceylon, and after some time working in his father's business and then as an estate agent, trained as a psychiatric social worker.

He lived to be 93, dying in 2016 - and regularly attended reunions at Elvington.

Today's event also celebrated the ground crew who kept the Halifax Bombers flying.

They included electrician Brian Piper, whose son Stuart was also at Elvington today.

The ground crew played a vital role in the squadron's operations, Stuart said. In fact, he said, they used to joke with the air crew: 'you bend 'em, we mend 'em' - and that more or less summed up their role. Brian, too, survived the war, and was eventually demobbed in India.

"But I'm proud of what he did," Stuart said. "Everybody had a part to play."