TRIBUTES have been paid to a former bomber turned Stop the War campaigner, who has died aged 90.

Right up until his death, Bertie Lewis, who lived in Farnworth, had been a familiar town centre figure, every Saturday brandishing his placard in Victoria Square, demonstrating against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan or the threat of nuclear weapons.

Martin Challender, chairman of Bolton TUC, said: “I will always remember Bertie as a committed campaigner who believed the billions spent on nuclear missiles should instead be invested in hospitals, schools, and other services.

“Yet he had also served as a Flight Sergeant with Bomber Command when Britain was at war with Hitler and fascism.”

Bernie Gallagher, branch secretary of the Bolton Metro branch of Unison, said: “I always admired Bertie’s dedication and spirit, he was out in all weathers on Bolton Precinct campaigning against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Chicago-born Mr Lewis died from a heart attack at the Royal Bolton Hospital on December 22.

His maternal grandparents came from Macclesfield, but he grew up in New York and was selling magazines around offices when he was only 10 years old.

He left school aged 15 and was 19 when the Second World War broke out.

It would be two more years before America entered the war, but Bertie worked his passage across the Atlantic, shovelling coal on a Norwegian ship, intent on enlisting in the RAF.

One of few Americans in the British Air Force, he became a wireless operator and flew more than 40 missions in Halifax bombers.

He first visited the north of England when thousands of airmen were billeted in Blackpool boarding houses, and while on leave. When the war ended, he returned to America, and for 10 years travelled back and forth between England and the USA. In the 1950s he became acquainted with Bolton, selling cash registers in pubs and clubs around the North West.

Despite his RAF background, Mr Lewis became staunchly anti-war, taking his protests to the street every week in Bolton and on national protests in London.

On Remembrance Sunday, at the foot of the Cenotaph, he would always lay his wreath of white poppies, to symbolise peace.

Despite his advancing years, in March he was among the protesters at the United Against Fascism and English Defence League counter-rallies in Bolton town centre.

He was knocked to the ground as police tried to arrest UAF protesters but spent the rest of the afternoon continuing his protest, albeit sitting down in his chair.

Speaking to The Bolton News, Mr Lewis said: “I fought the fascists during the Second World War and if I let someone like the English Defence League, which are the enemy, get away with coming here and protesting then what did I fight the war for?”