MICHAEL Pitt has received the BEM in the New Year's Honours List for services to the Royal Air Force and to the community in Woolacombe.
Mr Pitt, 92, joined the RAF in August 1936, straight from Bideford Grammar School, as an apprentice engineer.
However, like many boys of his age, he yearned to be a sergeant pilot but his dreams were dashed when he failed the medical because of his eyesight.
The Second World War broke out almost immediately on completion of his three year apprenticeship and he was sent to France with the 12th Squadron for ten months.
His squadron lost 25 aircraft in five weeks in the Battle of France.
Mr Pitt said: "Even now I feel the public tend to think the Battle of France was over at the time of Dunkirk whereas we had a very bitter struggle for a fortnight or more after that and suffered terrible losses."
On being transferred back to the UK, he served with Bomber Command until 1942 before being sent to America for three months.
On his return home he became a Staff Officer at the Air Ministry.
In 1946 he left the air force and became a teacher, working for 25 years at Caen Primary School in Braunton, until retiring.
In 1985 he became involved with the No 12 Squadron once again when he joined the Wickenby Register, named after the airfield where the squadron ended up.
Through the association he was able to meet those who had survived operations and others who were prisoners of war.
He also managed to trace relatives of men who had been killed.
Most years, from 1990 onwards, he attended the memorial services in Belgium and France.
He also raised money for the memorials to be refurbished. And he was instrumental in getting current serving members of No 12 Squadron to attend those memorial services.
Mr Pitt, who lives in Bayview Road, Woolacombe, was also recognised for his services to the local community.
He served on Mortehoe Parish Council for 21 years, three of those years as a district councillor. He also founded the Woolacombe and Mortehoe Residents' Association.
A widower, he has one daughter and one grandchild.