Spitfire pilot laid to rest more than 70 years after being shot down

A British World War Two hero has been buried more than seven decades after his Spitfire was shot down near Venice, Italy.

Warrant Officer John Henry Coates received a funeral with full military honours at Padua War Cemetery on Wednesday.

Twenty two members of his family reportedly attended the service, although none were alive at the time of his death.

The airman was shot down over Italy during a mission in 1945.

An unlucky shift swap sealed the serviceman's fate. He was due to be off work on the day his plane was shot down but instead joined 111 Squadron in the sky on a mission to destroy barges near Venice in 1945.

His plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire and ditched near the village of Cavarzere.

The crash claimed the 24-year-old's life and left his family in limbo as his whereabouts was unknown for the next seventy two years.

In 2017, the pilot's aircraft and body were found by an organisation specialising in recovering World War Two planes. Archaeology specialists Romagna Air Finders worked to the remove the remains of the plane from the ground, and found the body of Mr Coates inside.

Sadly his family members who were alive at the time of the crash passed away without learning his fate, but younger generations have paid tribute to the pilot.

Shelagh Coates, a descendant of the serviceman, told ITV News "he was a hero."

A funeral has been held for the serviceman in Italy. Credit: ITV News

Explaining her "surprise" at the news his remains were found with the plane, she said: "It is remarkable after 72 years of being buried in the ground, you just can't imagine it."

She added: "It is emotional for us, to bury someone who should have been buried 70 years ago, but it's a good honour, a brilliant honour for us to do it."

Mr Coates will rest alongside more than 480 of his colleagues from the World War Two at the military cemetery in Padua, northern Italy.