Nearly three quarters of a century ago a group villagers risked their lives to rescue Canadian pilot Jimmy Jeffrey from the clutches of the Nazis after his Spitfire crashed in Normandy, one of hundreds of allied airmen assisted by the French during the war.
This summer the very plane he flew will dip its wings over the site near Orbec where he crashed in July 1944, to pay tribute to all those brave men who took to the skies to defend Britain from invasion and those who helped them on the ground.
The flight will be the result of an extraordinary £3 million project to recover and rebuild Jeffrey’s Spitfire NH341.
Yesterday, in preparation for that commemorative event, the newly-restored plane, which took part in 27 combat missions during World War II, was showed off for the first time at the Imperial War Museum’s Duxford Aerodrome, one of the most RAF’s most important wartime bases.
There were gasps of delight from assembled veterans and aircraft aficionados as the plane made its way out of its hanger and onto the runway.
Gerry Abrahams, 94, a former Lancaster pilot who served in the 75 squadron between 1944 and 1945, was among those who had gathered to watch.
"Hearing the engine start made my heart flutter, that is the best part of a Spitfire,” he said. “We can't forget what happened in the war. So many soldiers lost their lives and young people don't realise that, but they should.”
Ron Dearman, 93, who flew a DC3 Dakota with the 267 Pegasus squadron during the war, added: “The Spitfire looks smashing. Everybody should know about these planes which helped us fight in the war.”
Spitfire NH341 was flown by nine pilots of the Royal Canadian Air Force's 411 Grizzly Bear Squadron, including Warrant Officer Jeffrey, before it was shot down after engaging in a dogfight with a Focke-Wulf 109 near Caen.
The squadron was part of 126 Wing, the highest scoring allied Air Force Wing of World War Two - claiming 336 enemy aircraft destroyed - and NH341 is credited with shooting down two Messerschmitt 109s.
WO Jeffrey managed to bale out when the plane was hit, before being taken in by the Soetards, a local farming family.
With the help of the French resistance - who brazenly took him into a local town for a haircut and to buy cheese under the noses of the Germans - he managed to return to his unit at the airfield of Beny-sur-Mer, occupied by the Allies following the D-Day invasion.
WO Jeffrey survived the war and returned home to Canada and his wife Jean.
Three years ago the badly damaged body of NH341 was bought by Keith Perkins, the owner of Aero Legends, a firm which offers the public the chance to fly in vintage planes such as the Tiger Moth, Harvard or Spitfire.
It took dozens of craftsmen and engineers and a lot of patience to restore NH341 to its current state, able to take to the skies once more.
Mr Perkins said: " When I acquired this aircraft as a restoration project I was totally unaware of the history that surrounded it and it has been a fascinating journey of discovery, with new information becoming available all the time. In its short but eventful operational life NH341 it touched many lives.”
Among the other men who flew her were Flt Lt, later Squadron Leader, H C ‘Charlie’ Trainor and Flt Lt A B ‘Bruce’ Whiteford.
Trainor, who received the Distinguished Service Order (DSC) DFC and Bar, claimed ‘Ace’ status after achieving eight victories over German aircraft, including two ME109s, in NH341.
Whiteford flew NH341 more times than any other pilot and the personalised markings ‘EO’ and ‘Elizabeth’, in honour of his wife, have been recreated on the aircraft.
Only one of the Canadian airmen who flew Spitfire NH341 in battle is still alive today - Flg Off T R ‘Tommy’ Wheler.
Mr Wheler, who is now 96, was honoured with a flypast by the RAF Red Arrows when he returned to Britain in 2015.
During his sortie in NH341 on 24th June 1944 several German mechanised transports were destroyed. Later in the war he was shot down and, in what became known as ‘Wheler’s walk,’ successfully escaped captivity three times to return to his unit.
Flt Lt Antony 'Parky' Parkinson MBE, who is due to captain NH341's forthcoming maiden flight, said: "It symbolises so much of the war years and there aren't many people in the world who don't think the Spitfire is the most impressive plane to have flown in our history.
"Pilots that were shot down by other planes wanted to be shot down by a Spitfire.”