A NEWPORT man believed to have been the very last survivor from the Island who served in the Far East when victory over Japan (VJ) was achieved in 1945 — Harry Claude Aitken — has died peacefully at his home, aged 101, on March 13.

Mr Aitken, of Somersbrook Court, served in the Royal Navy as an electrician with the Fleet Air Arm, specialising in servicing cockpit instruments on carrier aircraft during the Second World War.

The second eldest of six children to Alexander Smith Aitken and Mary Bayes, he followed his father (Royal Naval Air Service) and brother, Richard (RAF), into the forces.

Nicknamed Max by his naval colleagues, he served on HMS Begum, an escort carrier, off the coast of Burma, and on HMS Unicorn, part of the British Pacific Fleet, repairing and servicing aircraft that carried out bombing raids on Japan.

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Mr Aitken was in the Far East when, six days after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, victory over Japan was announced — signalling the beginning of the end of the war.

Each year thereafter, he wore his medals with pride as VJ Day was commemorated.

St George’s Church in Arreton is the home of the standard of the disbanded Island branch of the Burma Star Association (BSA), of which Mr Aitken was a member, as well as a commemorative stained glass window and a burial plot for former members of the group, which once boasted 325 members at its peak.

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He attended many remembrance services for his wartime Far East comrades over the years — including last year.

Mr Aitken was the Island branch's last survivor.

Born in Cardington, Bedfordshire, on December 10, 1921, Mr Aitken was educated at the village school, which he left aged 14 to begin an apprenticeship in electrics with W.H. Allen, of Bedford. 

While he was growing up, it was normal to watch huge airships, built at Cardington, flying in the area — until production was halted following the famous disaster over France, which exploded mid-flight, killing 44, en route from Cardington Airfield.

He remained with the company until he joined the navy in March 1942, serving in it until June 1946.

When he was demobbed, he was re-offered his pre-war job, but within months, he accepted a job with Frigidaire.

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Mr Aitken was recalled again for Korean War duty in May 1951 — but served in Northern Ireland — until January 1953.

Before his recall, he married Edna Williamson at Elstow Church, Bedford, on April 1, 1950. 

Between 1953 and 1962, having spotted a job advert, Mr Aitken worked at Luton Airport for D. Napier and Son as an ‘aircraft fitter for development work’. 

The family then moved to Carisbrooke. 

He worked briefly for Cowes-based American boatbuilders, Dorset Marine, which went bust, before he joined Plessey Radar, working as a quality engineer, doing final inspections, until his retirement.

His wife died in 2017.

In his spare time, for many years, he loved building and flying model aircraft, and doing photography, including his own processing.

Latterly, Mr Aitken was a keen gardener, enjoyed travel and entering competitions. He once won a holiday to Japan.

He is survived by one of his three sisters, Trixie, 95, his son, Roderick, and two grandchildren, Andrew and Nicola.

There will be a church service at St George's Church, Arreton, at 2pm, on Thursday, April 13, to reflect Mr Aitken's Burma Star connections, followed by a service at the Isle of Wight Crematorium, Whippingham, at 3.45pm, and a wake at the Woodman’s Arms, Wootton.