FRENCH war veterans returned to the North Yorkshire airfield they were based at during the Second World War to mark the 65th anniversary of their squadron’s formation.

The five men belonged to the French Air Force units that were integrated into the Bomber Command of the British Royal Air Force in May 1943 under the names of 346 and 347 Squadrons.

From their airbase in Elvington, they carried out dozens of vital war missions between June 1944 and May 1945, losing 216 men.

The veterans have recently been filmed for a French documentary, talking about their lives and loves in York and the operations they conducted from RAF Elvington.

Air gunner Lucien Mallia, now aged 88, even married a North Yorkshire girl he met at a local dance and the couple now have three children, 14 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.

Yesterday, the veterans visited the French War Memorial in Elvington and attended a civic reception at York’s Mansion House.

Ian Reed, director of the Yorkshire Air Museum, at Elvington, said: “These young men, far away from their homes and their families had the unenviable task of often bombing their own country, and 50 per cent never made it home.

“They were brave men and well-known throughout York. Their stories in this new film are exceptionally heart-warming, especially about the English people and we are pleased to welcome them ‘back to base’ once again”.