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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 June, 2005, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Queen's palace saviour pilot dies
Ray Holmes
Ray Holmes became a journalist after the war
A World War II fighter pilot who saved Buckingham Palace from a direct hit has died at the age of 90.

Sergeant Ray Holmes saved the palace when a German Dornier bomber lined up to attack it on 15 September 1940.

Sgt Holmes, from Wirral, had run out of ammunition when he saw the threat, so sliced through its tail then parachuted to safety.

A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said the Queen was "very sad" to hear of Mr Holmes' death.

He died on Monday at Hoylake Cottage Hospital in Wirral following a two-year battle with cancer.

Sgt Holmes' plane crashed into Buckingham Palace as he parachuted away and the German bomber plunged into part of Victoria station.

Last year, archaeologists unearthed parts of Sgt Holmes's fighter plane for a TV documentary about his exploits.

Ray Holmes
The plane Mr Holmes piloted crashed into Buckingham Palace

His wife, Anne, 61, described her husband as "awe-inspiring" and said he would be sadly missed.

Following his death, tributes poured in for the Battle of Britain hero, including one from the Queen.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: "The Queen was very sad to hear of the death of Ray Holmes, given his role in the valiant defence of London during World War II."

Flags were flying at half-mast in his honour in Wirral, where he lived for most of his life.

Last year, Sgt Holmes was made a Freeman of Wirral.

Journalism career

Steve Maddox, chief executive of Wirral Borough Council, said: "I can think of no-one upon whom this honour could have been more fittingly bestowed."

Sgt Holmes, whose nickname was Arty, continued to fly throughout the war, becoming an instructor teaching Russians how to fly Hurricanes.

He later moved into photo-reconnaissance, taking pictures from 30,000ft over Germany of locations such as Berlin and Hitler's hideout at Berchtesgaden.

He ended the war flying as the King's Messenger, delivering mail for Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.

After he saw the end of active service, Mr Holmes returned to Wirral where he worked as a journalist.

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