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Judith backs campaign to commemorate local WW2 hero

A Spitfire Mk1 of the No.1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit, RAF - Image: Imperial War Museums

Judith is supporting a campaign to commemorate the brave pilots and navigators of the Photographic Reconnaissance Units (PRU) during the Second World War.


The PRU was formed on 24th September 1939 and throughout the Second World War it operated highly dangerous, clandestine photographic reconnaissance operations over all theatres of operation, and captured more than 26 million images of enemy operations and installations during the war.


The purpose of the PRU was to provide up-to-date intelligence to strategically plan the Allied actions in the war. Flying Spitfires and Mosquitos, the intelligence it gathered was used by all the armed forces, giving same day intelligence on enemy activity.


The intelligence provided by the PRU was used in the Cabinet War Rooms – now the ‘Churchill War Rooms’ located underneath the Treasury – and was instrumental in the planning of major operations; D-Day and the Dambusters Raid, the monitoring of major shipping movements such as the Bismarck and Tirpitz, and the locating of the site of the V1 and V2 rocket launching site at Peenemünde.


Due to the clandestine nature of their operations – they flew solo operations, unarmed and unarmoured – the death rate was nearly fifty percent. However, despite having one of the lowest survival rates of the war there is no national memorial to the PRU.


The ‘Spitfire AA810 Project’ has therefore led the campaign to establish such a memorial to the PRU pilots and navigators.


John Kenneth Astin was born in 1919 in Bierley, joining the RAF before the war he was badly injured in a flying training accident in 1940.


Qualifying as a pilot he first flew Lysander aircraft, narrowly escaping death when he was involved in a mid-air collision whilst formation flying with other members of his Squadron.


He married Vera Coverdale in Knaresborough in 1941, and later went on to fly with the photographic reconnaissance squadrons. He survived the war, and later passed away in 1995.


Supporting the campaign is local MP, Judith Cummins. Commenting:


“I am delighted to support the campaign to commemorate those who served in the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit.


This includes John Astin, who served under exceptionally difficult conditions, and I would urge anyone who might have any more information on him to get in touch.


I look forward to working with the Spitfire AA810 Project to establish this memorial and to being able to pay my respects there once it is completed.”


If there is anyone related to or who knew John Astin, or if anyone know someone who served in the PRU during the war, please go the Spitfire AA810 Project website (, or get in touch with Tony Hoskins,


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