It's a simple grave on the far side of Kingston's Bonner Hill Cemetery, marked by a white military stone, but difficult to find without help from the cemetery staff.

They have been asked for that help often in recent months. For in the grave rests pilot officer Cyril Barton, and this year marks the 60th anniversary of his heroic death.

He is the only Victoria Cross holder to be buried in Kingston. He was also the only Second World War Halifax bomber crew member to be honoured with the Victoria Cross (VC), which takes precedence over all other awards, decorations and honours, within the British Commonwealth. Indeed, it has been conferred on only 51 airmen since its inception by Queen Victoria in 1856.

Cyril Barton, popularly known as Cy, lived in Elm Road, New Malden, with his parents and five siblings. After leaving Beverley Boys School, he became an apprentice at the Hawker Aircraft factory in Kingston, and attended classes at Kingston Technical College in the evenings. On Sundays he was a regular worshipper at St John's Church, New Malden.

He enlisted with the RAF in 1941, when he was 19. Soon afterwards he was sent to America for a year's course of special instruction, returning late in 1942 to qualify and secure his wings. Then, in July 1943, he embarked on his first operational flight.

Before taking off he gave his brother Kenneth a letter for his mother, in the event of his death. It began: "I hope you will never receive this, but I quite expect you will. I am expecting to do my first operational flight in a few days. I know what ops over Germany mean, and I have no illusions about it."

On January 5, 1944, Cy received his commission as a pilot officer. On March 26, he was promoted to flying officer. On March 31, he died at dawn, aged 22.

His Halifax was one of the 779 aircraft that had taken off from RAF Burn in Yorkshire the previous night, in Bomber Command's ill-starred raid on Nuremberg. No fewer than 96 aircraft were lost during the next few hours. For Cy, disaster struck when his Halifax was attacked in the air by a German Junkers 88.

Through brilliant piloting, he eventually shook off his attacker. But he had lost 400 gallons of fuel from two ruptured tanks. Furthermore, one engine, the radio and intercom systems, and the rear turret were out of action. However, his worst shock was the discovery that, because of a Morse Code misunderstanding, half of the six-man crew had baled out. This left Cy without his wireless operator, navigator and bomber.

In such desperate circumstances, he could justifiably have baled out with his three remaining crewmen. Or he could have jettisoned his bomb load and abandoned the mission.

Instead, he did what he saw as his duty he flew doggedly on to his target and released the bombs himself.

Then he turned for home. Despite strong headwinds and a broken propeller, and with no navigational aids, he somehow made it across the North Sea.

Spying the Durham coastline below, he gave his customary thumbs-up sign to his companions. As he did so the fuel ran out, the engines died, and alone in the cockpit he fought to guide the engineless bomber.

Suddenly, a group of miners' cottages loomed through the dawn mist. He managed to clear them, but the manoeuvre took the last vestiges of speed and control. The Halifax crashed into the yard of Ryhope Colliery and Cy was killed. But his three crewmen, whom he had ordered into crash positions by the main spar, survived without serious injury.

The only consolation for the grieving Barton family was that, unlike so many lost airmen, Cy could at least be laid to rest in his home territory. After a funeral service at St John's Church, He was buried in Bonner Hill Cemetery on April 6, 1944. Three months later, he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

The citation read: "In gallantly completing his last mission, in the face of almost impossible odds, this officer displayed unsurpassed courage and devotion to duty."

Even more moving was the letter which the devoutly Christian young Cy had written for his mother in the event of his death extracts from which were published in many national newspapers at the time..

"Except for leaving you, I am quite prepared to die," he wrote. "I know I shall survive the Judgement because I have trusted in Christ as my saviour. All that I am anxious about is that you and the rest of the family will come to know Him."

The borough of Malden and Coombe, as it was then, was deeply proud of its young hero. The council presented his parents with a framed testimonial, launched a trust fund to pay for the education of his five siblings and named Barton Green in his memory.

I am indebted to Tony Fallows of Raynes Park for providing me with information about Cy to mark the 50th anniversary of his death in 1994. Mr Fallows, an air-traffic controller at Heathrow, told me he had been deeply interested in the Second World War heroes of RAF Bomber Command since early childhood.

"My essential feeling is admiration for such young men. Most were aged between 16 and their early 20s, and who faced almost certain death with such astounding bravery," he said. "But for them, many of us wouldn't be here, and I want to make people aware of that."

He pointed out the men of Bomber Command had to make a "tour" of 30 flights over Germany.

"If they survived that, which was rare, they were allowed a rest of six months before having to embark on a further tour of 20," he said. "The casualty rate was appalling. Some 55,000 of them were killed, and many don't have a grave.

"The more I read about them, the more I think they should be honoured and remembered, for all time."

Further details about Cy, and the Christian faith which fuelled his courage, appeared in The Air Pilot's Decision The Story of Cyril Barton VC. After the war, 10 million copies of this booklet by Frank Colquhoun went on sale at 2d each. Now Cy's sister has given a copy to Bonner Hill Cemetery, where it can be read in the office on request.

"Many people come to visit Cyril Barton's grave, and want to know more about him, so this booklet will be invaluable," said the deputy registrar, Paul Muggleton.

New Malden has another VC hero of the air, who also died 60 years ago. He was squadron leader Ian Bazalgette, who lived in Sycamore Grove, attended Rokeby School in Wimbledon, and became a pilot officer in 1942.

He had completed many daring raids, and won the DFC, before taking the controls of a Lancaster bomber for a daylight raid on a key V1 storage depot in France on August 4, 1944.

The plane was set alight by anti-aircraft fire, but squadron leader Bazalgette pressed on and delivered all his bombs on target. Then an engine failed, the entire starboard mainplane went up in flames and Bazalgette ordered his crew to bale out, if they could.

He remained at the controls to try to land the crippled craft, and save his wounded bomb aimer and air gunner. Skilfully avoiding a village, he brought the aircraft safely down.

But it then exploded, and he and his two comrades were killed.

His posthumous VC was received by his mother in December 1945. New Malden's Bazalgette Gardens is named in his memory.