APRIL 1 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force (RAF), the World’s first - and most famous - independent

Air Force. With its brand recognised throughout the world, its famous roundel has become synonymous with courage, not least during the dark days of the Battle of Britain and World War Two.

Over the last century many brave Welshmen from our region have flown with the RAF but one name stands out over all the others.

David Lord was born in Cork in 1913 to Samuel Beswick Lord and of Mary Ellen Lord. He was educated in various places during his father’s military career, before the family settled in Wrexham where David studied at St Mary’s School, Wrexham, followed by St Mary’s College, Aberystwyth.

Lord went on to attend the English Ecclesiastical College in Valladolid, Spain to study for the priesthood but as Spain toppled into civil war he returned to Wrexham before moving to London in the mid-1930s where he became a freelance journalist. He enlisted in the RAF in 1936.

With war approaching, Lord underwent pilot training, becoming a sergeant pilot in 1939 with No. 31 Squadron RAF on the North West Frontier, flying the Vickers Valentia biplane. In 1941 No. 31 squadron was the first unit to receive the Douglas DC-2 which was followed by both the Douglas DC-3 and Dakota transports. He flew in the Middle East before being posted back to India. Commissioned in 1942, he flew on supply missions over Burma.

Lord was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross during 1943 and by January 1944 had returned to the UK for service with No. 271 Squadron (based at RAF Down Ampney, Gloucestershire) training to drop paratroops, supplies and to tow military gliders. He then took part in the D-Day operations in June 1944.

Now aged 30 and a Flight Lieutenant, Lord was the pilot and captain of a Dakota aircraft detailed to drop supplies at Arnhem on September 19, 1944. The Battle of Arnhem, which has become one of the war's most famous engagements thanks to the film A Bridge Too Far was part of Operation Market Garden, an attempt to secure a string of bridges through the Netherlands. At Arnhem the British 1st Airborne Division and Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade were tasked with securing bridges across the Lower Rhine, the final objectives of the operation. However, the airborne forces that dropped on September 17 were not aware that the 9th SS and 10th SS Panzer divisions were also near Arnhem for rest and refit. Their presence added a substantial number of Panzergrenadiers, tanks and self-propelled guns to the German defences and the Allies suffered heavily in the ensuing battle. Only a small force managed to hold one end of the Arnhem road bridge before being overrun on September 21.The rest of the division became trapped in a small pocket west of the bridge and had to be evacuated on September 25.

Six day's previously Lord took off from RAF Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, in a Douglas C47 Dakota marked YS-L. It was one of a group of planes from 271 Squadron loaded with supplies to be parachuted to the Allied troops. All aircrews were warned to expect intense opposition over the drop zone, but despite this they were ordered to fly at 900ft while dropping their containers to ensure accuracy. While flying 1,500 feet over Arnhem, the starboard wing of Flt Lt Lord’s aircraft was hit twice by anti-aircraft fire and burst into flames.

Reports noted he would have been justified in continuing on the same height or even abandoning the aircraft, but having ensured his crew were uninjured and with the drop zone just three minutes away, decided to complete his mission and drop the supplies to the desperate troops.

With the engine burning furiously he dropped to 900ft where he was singled out for the concentrated fire of the anti-aircraft guns, but reached the drop zone and successfully completed his run. He was then told that there were still two containers on board.

Although he knew that one of his wings might collapse at any moment, Lord nevertheless made a second run to drop the last supplies, then ordered his crew to bail out. A few seconds later, the Dakota crashed in flames with its pilot and six crew.

Only the navigator, Flight Lieutenant Harold King survived, becoming a prisoner of war. It was only on his release in mid-1945 that the story of Lord's action was known, and the Wrexham man was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

“By continuing his mission in a damaged and burning aircraft,” said the report, “descending to drop the supplies accurately, returning to the dropping zone a second time, and finally remaining at the controls to give his crew a chance to escape, Flight Lieutenant Lord displayed supreme valour and self sacrifice.” The VC was presented to his parents at Buckingham Palace.

After Arnhem was liberated in April 1945, Grave Registration Units of the British 2nd Army moved into the area and began to locate the Allied dead. Lord was buried alongside his crew in the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery. There are many plaques in memory of him, including one at Wrexham Cathedral in Wales and several aircraft have carried tributes to Lord - a pilot who lived and died by the RAF's motto: Through Adversity to the Stars.