A MEMORIAL has been unveiled to mark the 80th anniversary of the death of a Belgian fighter pilot who crash-landed a Spitfire near Stirling during the Second World War.

Members of Henri Jeanne Paul Delabastita’s family flew over from Belgium for a special ceremony. He died when he crashed near the North Third reservoir on January 23, 1943, on return to RAF Balado Bridge, near Kinross, after a training exercise.

It is believed his oxygen feed iced up while the plane was flying at a high altitude.

While Delabastita was buried locally, the crash site was undisturbed for nearly 60 years. His aircraft was left submerged in the bog and was not fully recovered until 2000.

At the time of the crash, Delabastita was serving as an RAF Voluntary Reserve pilot. He is thought to have made his way to Britain after escaping from the notorious German prisoner of war camp Colditz.

The National: Henri Delabastita died in 1943Henri Delabastita died in 1943 (Image: -)

A permanent memorial has been created thanks to the efforts of local volunteers and veterans. The unveiling ceremony was also attended by Stirling Provost Douglas Dodds; the Lord Lieutenant, Alan Simpson; RAF dignitaries; volunteers who uncovered the crash site; and representatives from the charity Erskine.

Dodds said: “On behalf of the people of Stirling, it’s a privilege to unveil a fitting and proper memorial to the life of an Allied hero of the Second World War.

“Henri Delabastita served with distinction in his home country before playing a valuable role in Britain’s war efforts after having been detained at Colditz. We were honoured that some of Henri’s family could attend this special commemorative event. This plaque ensures his memory and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

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“I also pay tribute to the dedicated work of the volunteers who recovered the remnants of the Spitfire that crashed here in Stirling, as well as those who put in the time and effort to create this beautiful memorial.”

Dirk Delabastita, the grand-nephew of the late pilot said: “It is a poignant experience for us to be part of this memorial event and to witness the unveiling. We are honoured and moved.

“In our lives, our great-uncle Henri has always been both a presence and an absence, a presence because both our dad and our grandad so often spoke with obvious pride about their heroic uncle and brother.”