A WAR hero who kept Spitfires in the air during the Battle of Britain and after the D-Day landings has died aged 97.

Stan Hartill became part of RAF Servicing Commando and, during the liberation of France, he maintained and refuelled planes so they could keep fighting without returning to England.

He died in the early hours of Sunday at the Macmillan Unit of Christchurch Hospital, days ahead of today’s flypast in London to mark 100 years of the RAF.

Originally from Wolverhampton, Stan Hartill was 19 when he joined the RAF in 1940 and became an airframe fitter with RAF 609 Spitfire Squadron at Middle Wallop, Hampshire.

The Battle of Britain that summer was Hitler’s attempt to achieve air superiority over Britain, ready for an invasion. Air crew would refuel the still hot Spitfire engines and check for bullet holes before the planes returned to the battle.

At the height of the conflict, the crews would sleep under the wings of the Spitfires each night, ready for an enemy attack.

By 1944, Mr Hartill was with RAF Servicing Commando, a group of around 180 highly skilled crew, and was sent to Fareham shortly before D-Day.

“At nine o’clock on June 5, we were all assembled, we were given a hot meal and we were told we were to change our money into French francs – so we got a good idea then where we were going to go,” he told the Echo in 2014.

“And lastly they said, if anybody hasn’t made a will, would they care to make one now in the tent nearby?”

He landed just south of Juno Beach in the early hours of June 7. The men worked through the night to prepare B3 airfield at St Croix Sur Mer.

Days later, an American Flying Fortress, escorted by 10 fighters, brought a VIP to the airstrip. “Before I could do anything, out jumped the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, General Eisenhower. He never spoke, just looked. I looked up at the cockpit and there sitting in the cockpit in the second pilot’s seat was the second in command, Air Chief Marshal Tedder,” he recalled.

“That was General Eisenhower’s very first visit by air to Normandy.”

Stan Hartill moved to Bournemouth 58 years ago and ran several betting shops as well as taking bets at racecourses.

In 2015, he was awarded France’s highest decoration, the Legion d’Honneur.

A widower who lived on the East Cliff, he leaves behind two brothers and daughter Sandra. Funeral details have yet to be announced.