RAF hero Alfie Martin, who parachuted from blazing bomber, dies in Belfast
An RAF war hero who dived out of a stricken Halifax bomber on the France-Belgium border in April 1943 has died.
Alfie Martin DFC, who was smuggled to safety by the Resistance, was 97. A widower, he is survived by two daughters, Julie and Sheila.
Alfie later wrote a bestseller called Bale Out! about his experiences getting out of enemy-occupied territory. It tells how his Halifax crashed in flames after he had jumped to safety.
His friend, another RAF veteran and former test pilot Paddy Crowther, recalled: "A great character and a brave man, Alfie is one of the last survivors of the Caterpillar Club whose members are all airmen who survived stricken planes by parachute. He will never be forgotten."
Flying Officer Martin, a navigator/observer, passed away in the Somme Nursing Home, Holywood Road, Belfast.
Back in that spring of 1943, he was slipped through German Army patrols by the Resistance and escaped into Spain and then into Gibraltar, from where he was flown back to his base in Bristol.
After he baled out at Epsuvages on the French-Belgium border, Alfie slipped through towns, cities and villages including Solre le Chateau, Lessies, Lille, Arras, Paris, Bordeaux, Dax, Bayonne, St John de Luz, Irun, San Sebastian, Madrid, and finally into Gibraltar.
Alfie, who was with 102 Squadron and who lived in Dunmurry, was decorated with a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his exploits.
He has been back to France to meet some of the Resistance members who rescued him, but three of them didn't survive the war and others have died natural deaths.
Maquis leader Eugene d'Hallendre was eventually unmasked and shot dead by a German firing squad.
Alfie, who was posted missing, was initially hidden away by Monsieur de Touray, on whose land his plane came down in flames.
The old flyboy was a regular at social events at the Aldergrove RAF/Army base, where he was a popular wartime figure.