A Surbiton resident and her family have learned of their father's remarkable heroism as an RAF pilot ahead of Armistice Day next Monday (November 11).

Joan currently lives with dementia at the Royal Star and Garter veterans' home in Surbiton.

Her late husband Halsey Roscorla was an RAF pilot during the Second World War, but like many veterans of the conflict rarely spoke about his wartime experiences.

This Is Local London: Image via RSGImage via RSG

Years after his death in 1966, Joan chanced on a photograph that led to a remarkable discovery about Halsey's actions during the war.

Joan and her family learned that, in 1945, Halsey helped fly 732 orphaned child survivors of Nazi concentration camps from Prague to England.

This group of children, which included only 80 girls, would become known as The Boys.

They went on to build successful lives around the world.

Among them was author Arek Hersh MBE, who wrote about his Holocaust experience in A Detail of History.

This Is Local London: Joan and family at RSG in SurbitonJoan and family at RSG in Surbiton

Halsey's son Charles was watching the news with his wife Martine when he learned of Halsey’s courageous act:

"In our photo album drawer at home there is a series of pictures of planes lined up on a runway, and [it’s] looking like refugee children going into these planes.

"I’ve known them forever. And we turned on the news one night in 2005 and it was a celebration of the refugee children being picked up at Prague airport.

"Children who had been in camps to be brought to this country, they were taken to Windermere. It was the 60th anniversary. Martine and I were ‘Oh! What was that?!'" he said.

The family soon contacted the Imperial War Museum, who confirmed what they had thought after seeing the footage — it was Halsey.

This Is Local London: Orphans prepare to board RAF plane in Prague, 1945. Image: Please credit © Crown CopyrightOrphans prepare to board RAF plane in Prague, 1945. Image: Please credit © Crown Copyright

Mr Hersh MBE offered further recollections of what it was like to be on that flight to safety after escaping the Nazi concentration camps.

"I remember that journey well. There were about 30 of us sitting on the floor in the plane and the pilots came and gave us some bread and chocolate!

"They were ever so nice to us. I shall never forget what they did for us.

"We wouldn’t be here today without them. They freed Europe and brought us out to safety. I would love to see the photos and meet the family to say thank you personally," he said.