A Kiwi airman has been honoured at a ceremony in France for the first time by New Zealand, 68 years after he died when his Lancaster bomber was shot down in World War 2.

Flight Lieutenant Royston Taylor, 28, and seven crew from England, Canada and Australia, were killed on August 15 1943, during a bombing mission to Italy.

A German night fighter shot their Royal Air Force Lancaster down over Sassenay, in eastern France.

Each year since, the villagers have remembered their sacrifice, but it was not until 1988 that a memorial was built to the eight flyers.


For years after the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior was bombed by French Secret Service agents in Auckland in 1985, New Zealand was never formally invited to the service.

This year New Zealand was represented for the first time, by Wing Commander Barry Nelson, who said the service "was a poignant time to reflect on service and sacrifice".

Flt Lt Taylor was born in Wandsworth, London, in 1915, but grew up in New Zealand and was educated in Hastings.

He joined the air force in 1941 and trained in Canada, before joining the RAF's No 7 Squadron and flying operational missions from late 1942, until shot down.

The courage of German-occupied Sassenay was remarkable, Wng Cdr Nelson said.

After the crash the villagers held a funeral for the eight airmen as an act of resistance, despite German orders not to, he said.

The mayor of Sassenay was arrested by the Gestapo for his part in the funeral.

"I am proud to honour the bravery of the people of Sassenay and those who are responsible for the memorial that marks the fallen members of the RAF Lancaster bomber, including Flight Lieutenant Taylor."

The service also remembered a young Frenchman killed by downed power lines as he approached the crash site to help the crew.