A GALLANT Second World War pilot was honoured on Thursday, at a ceremony in Arreton, in remembrance of his sacrifice.

Last Thursday, Sgt John Keatinge Haire was honoured near his crash site in Arreton, with a granite memorial stone unveiled by Isle of Wight deputy lieutenant Nicholas Oulton.

The memorial was unveiled in the presence of the pilot’s cousins, Yvonne Russell and John Robinson, who had been found after an extensive search by Graham Drucker of the Island-based Commonwealth Family History Research.

Graham was honoured to host the cousins at his house in Ventnor, after they travelled from Dublin for the occasion.

Sgt Keatinge ­Haire — who served in the Royal Air Force volunteer reserve during the Second World War ­— was just 20 years old when his Hawker Hurricane was shot down on November 6, 1940.

On a Sunday afternoon, 11 planes from RAF 145 Squadron took off to patrol over the Isle of Wight following bombing runs on Southampton and Portsmouth.

Sgt Keatinge Haire acted as a weaver, flying above and behind the other ten planes to deter surprise attacks.

At 5.15pm, on October 27, 1940, he was shot down by an ME109 and remained with his plane until the last possible moment, guiding it away from housing.

On this occasion, he brought his Hurricane down safely on a beach near Bembridge.

The event, however ­— while giving a clear indication of his admirable character ­— would prove a portent of things to come.

Returning to duty a week later, on November 6, 1940, he was again shot down ­— this time by a BF109.

Had he bailed out earlier, his stricken plane may well have plummeted into Arreton, killing many people.

In an act of altruism, Sgt Keatinge Haire remained on-board long enough to steer his aircraft away from the houses.

Forfeiting his own life to spare the many, he was flying too low by the time he made his way on to a wing and deployed his parachute.

Air raid precaution warden, George Calloway, from Arreton, watched the burning plane come down, and was one of the first to arrive at the crash site.

The young pilot came down in a ploughed field near Haseley Manor, and was alive but unconscious, when a local vicar performed the final blessing.

Thursday's service ­started with a march on parade, followed by the Battle of Britain poem, Last Scramble, read by a pupil of St George's CE Primary School in Arreton, and was followed by a Winston Churchill speech read by an Air Training Corps cadet.

The unveiling of the memorial stone was preceded by a flying officer speech from Fl Lt Joel Babbage, and a thanksgiving from Rev Janice O'Shaughnessy, vicar of Arreton.

There was also a wreath-laying and Spitfire flypast.

A memorial stone had been specially commissioned.