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On 12 August 1943 during a raid on Turin, Italy, Flight Sergeant Aaron's bomber was hit by gunfire (possibly from a night fighter, but may have been friendly fire from another Stirling ). The Stirling was very badly damaged; Three engines were hit, the windscreen shattered, the front and rear turrets put out of action and the elevator control damaged, causing the aircraft to become unstable and difficult to control. The navigator was killed, other members of the crew were wounded, Flight Sergeant Aaron's jaw was broken and part of his face was torn away. He had also been hit in the lung and his right arm was useless. Despite his terrible injuries he managed to level the aircraft out at 3000ft. Unable to speak, Flight Sergeant Aaron urged the bomb aimer with gestures to take over the controls. The crippled bomber made for the nearest Allied bases in North Africa.
Aaron was then assisted to the rear of the aircraft and given morphia. After resting he insisted on returning to the cockpit where he was lifted back into his seat where he made a determined effort to take control and fly the aircraft although his weakness was evident and he was eventuall persuaded to desist. In great pain and suffering from exhaustion he continued to help by writing directions with his left hand.
Five hours after leaving the target fuel was now low, but Bone airfield was sighted. Flight Sergeant Aaron summoned his failing strength to successfully direct the bomb aimer in belly-landing the damaged aircraft in the darkness.
He died nine hours after the aircraft touched down.
To mark the new Millennium, the Leeds Civic Trust organised a public vote to chose a statue to mark the occasion, and to publicise the city's past heroes and heroines. Candidates included Benjamin Latrobe and Sir Henry Moore. Arthur Aaron won the vote, with Don Revie beating Joshua Tetley and Frankie Vaughan as runner-up. Located on a roundabout on the northern edge of the city centre, close to the West Yorkshire Playhouse, the statue of Aaron was unveiled on 24 March, 2001 by Malcolm Mitchem, the last survivor of the aircraft. The five-metre bronze sculpture by Graham Ibbeson takes the form of Aaron standing next to a tree, up which are climbing three children progressively representing the passage of time between 1950 and 2000, with the last a girl releasing a dove of peace, all representing the freedom his sacrifice helped ensure. There is much controversy about the poor and inappropriate siting of this statue (early 2008) and there are moves afoot to transfer it to Millennium Square outside Leeds City Museum.
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