ONE of the last surviving Spitfire pilots from World War Two has told of his devastation at the theft of a photo of the plane he flew signed by former comrades, most of whom died in the war.

98-year-old Dr Edmund James says he was devastated to find that the photograph he kept hanging in the same room as his war medals in his home in Falmouth for many years had disappeared, following a pre-arranged visit by someone who was doing some work for him.

The former flight lieutenant told the Packet: "I was so angry. The picture was signed by my friends. Some of whom were killed and didn't get through. Gone before they were intended. I would really like to have it returned.

"It used to hang on a hook in the study, it had hung there for many decades. Whoever took it had piled up books to fill in the gap in the hope I wouldn't notice.

"I wouldn't like to say what I want to do them, but I just want it returned to the police."

Dr James, volunteered to join the RAF at just 17, because he knew he would be called up and wanted to make sure he got in the service he wanted: the RAF.

While he was too late to fight in the Battle of Britain, based at Biggin Hill he saw action over the UK seas and above the fields of France during and after D-Day.

He said he had been involved in a lot of combat mission fighting enemy planes but only had good memories about it. "At 17, 18, 19 or 20 you don't think of it as being unnerving but you think of it as being exciting," he said. "I enjoyed it in a way.

"My memories are just pleasant. I know I lost a lot of friends at the time, but it helps if it's what you wanted to do. I wanted to be a pilot as I was inspired by Biggles."

PC Paul Stevenson from Devon and Cornwall Police said: "On the day it happened, he was massively upset because the picture was of the plane he flew, signed by other pilots who he flew with.

"Nearly all of them were either killed during the war or have now died. So it was of great sentimental value.

"We are just trying to do everything we can do to just get it back for him. It is very difficult to prove they took it, but we are just trying to locate it to get it back for him.

"We don't want to punish the person who took it he just wants it back. We just want to try and do that for him.

"He's got a frame with all his medals in it that is still there. It's a bit strange that it is just the photo that was taken. But it's definitely not in his house."

The veteran pilot is 99 in February and would love to get the picture back before his next birthday. The 98-year-old joined the elite 92 Squadron during the war after it was reformed on October 10, 1939.

The unit was supposed to be equipped with medium bombers but in the spring of 1940 it became one of the first RAF units to receive the Supermarine Spitfire, going on to fight in the Battle of Britain.

They first saw action over the Dunkirk evacuation beaches flying from RAF Croydon. During the latter stages of the Battle of Britain No. 92 Squadron flew from RAF Biggin Hill. During World War II the squadron claimed the highest number of victories scored, 317, in the RAF.

Following the war Dr James became a doctor and during the 1980s was the head of Child Health in Cornwall.

Posting on Facebook, Falmouth and Helston Police said: "These images are of a photo which was taken/stolen from an address in Falmouth.
The photo belongs to a 98-year-old war veteran, the Spitfire was the males plane during the Second World War. It is signed by his friends who flew with him at the time, as you can appreciate it has great sentimental valve."

Anybody with information about its whereabouts is asked to ring/email 101 quoting crime number CR/091747/20.