A MEMORIAL to a Belgian fighter pilot who died when his spitfire crash landed near Stirling during the Second World War has been unveiled to commemorate the 80th anniversary of his death.

Henri Jeanne Paul Delabastita died on January 29, 1943 after crashing near the North Third reservoir following a training exercise on route to RAF Balado Bridge.

The pilot was buried locally and the memorial has been placed following efforts of local volunteers and veterans.

This was unveiled at a ceremony attended by members of Henri’s family who flew from Belgium alongside Stirling provost Donald Dodds, RAF dignitaries, the Lord Lieutenant, Alan Simpson, volunteers who uncovered the crash site and representatives of ERSKINE.

Dirk Delabastita, Henri’s grandnephew, said: “It is a strange and poignant experience for us to be part of this memorial event and to witness the unveiling of the plaque personally dedicated to our great-uncle.

“In our lives, out great-uncle Henri has always been – very paradoxically – both a presence and an absence.

“A presence because both our dad and our grandad so often spoke with obvious pride, and invariably repeating the same anecdotes, about their heroic uncle and brother.

“This gave Henri a somewhat legendary status within our small family.

“Being here helps us as a family to imagine our great-uncle as the real person that he was – someone who walked the earth – albeit as little as possible, because he was most in his element flying high above it.

“We are extremely grateful to the provost and Stirling Council, to the archaeologists, the builders and the artists, the sponsors, organisers and volunteers past and present who made this commemoration and monument possible.

“We feel honoured as a family and are moved by your generosity.”

The crash site remained undisturbed for nearly 60 years, with an effort from volunteers successfully recovering the spitfire, named Gibraltar, in 2000.

It is alleged Henri had made his way to Britain after being held in the German prisoner of war camp, Colditz, where he made an escape from.

Provost Dodds said: “On behalf of the people of Stirling, it’s a privilege to unveil a fitting and proper memorial to the life of an Allied hero of the Second World War.

“Henri Delabastita served with distinction in his home country before playing a valuable role in Britain’s war efforts after having been detained at Colditz.

“We are honoured that some of Henri’s family could attend this special commemorative event, and this plaque ensures his memory and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

“I also pay tribute to the dedicated work of the volunteers who recovered the remnants of the Spitfire that crashed here in Stirling, as well as those who put in the time and effort to create this beautiful memorial so that we may remember this remarkable man and this chapter in Stirling’s history.”