Hollywood star pays tribute to RAF veteran

An RAF veteran was given a hero's farewell today as hundreds answered a public appeal for mourners - including Hollywood star Minnie Driver.

Derrick Allaway, who died aged 95, outlived all his family so the Royal British Legion invited members of the public to attend his funeral.

Around 200 people turned out for his send-off which included many former and present RAF officers and personnel and a flypast from a veteran aircraft.

And they heard a fond last message to Derrick from Minnie, star of Good Will Hunting, Grosse Pointe Blank and Sleepers.In an email she told how Derrick and her father Ronnie Driver met as trainees in 9 Squadron just before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Minnie Driver's father worked with Derrick during WWII

While her father became a gunner and took to the skies in Wellington bombers on his first mission his pal stayed on the ground as a mechanic with Bomber Command.

Minnie recalled: "I met Derrick two and a half years ago when I was exploring my father's service record for the BBC series "Who Do You Think You Are?

"He was 93 years old and the last surviving serviceman who was present that day.

"Derrick told me things I will never forget. He told me that 12 of the 24 Wellingtons that set out on that mission never came back and that 61 young airmen died that day.

"He told me how my dad's plane ditched in the North Sea, 76 years this week on 18 December 1939.

"Dad managed to get the dinghy out and save the rest of the crew, except the rear gunner, LAC Walter Lilly, who died of the injuries he sustained in the battle.

"Derrick told me that Walter Lilly was my dad's best mate and they would all go drinking together at the Honington Fox pub near the base."

She added: "Derrick told the that my dad was a 'good bloke, a good friend and one of us.'

"I thought Derrick Allaway was a good bloke, a good friend and one of those men who, like my dad, protected us when we needed them to.

"It was an honour to meet him and I for one will never forget him."

Derrick, who died last month from age-related illness, spent his final years in a residential home in Hornsea, East Yorks.

His coffin was draped with the Union flag and greeted by eight standard bearers and a guard of honour as it entered Haltemprice Crematorium, Hull, on Monday.

Ken Simmonds, branch secretary of the RBL in Hull, said: "The response really has been quite overwhelming."

The packed service was attended by an air commodore, five squadron leaders a flight lieutenant and a warrant officer, all retired.

Derrick served with 9 Squadron from June 1939 to July 1942.

Mr Allaway was posted to RAF Hucknall in Nottinghamshire, where he worked on Fairey Battles - a British single-engine light bomber.

He also spent time in Canada as an acting corporal fitting wheels and tyres to Commonwealth training aircraft.

Click below to watch Michael Billington's full report: