A WAR hero who became the youngest person to receive the Distinguished Flying Medal after lying about his age to join the RAF has died.

Donald Harvin Cochrane passed away aged 83, after spending most of his life in Barnet.

He was born in 1926 in Palmers Green and moved to Barnet soon afterwards.

In 1941, when he was 15, he joined the RAF alongside his friend Colin, both claiming they were 18.

On the night of March 22, 1944, when flying to Frankfurt in Germany, his plane was attacked by an enemy fighter and hit by both cannon and machine gun fire.

Wireless operator Sergeant Cochrane put out a fire with his hands and saved the lives of three gunners, two of whom he gave his own oxygen to.

In 1945 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal by King George VI.

After the war he set up a glassmaking factory with his brother which made test tubes, beakers, funnels and other scientific glassware.

Cochrane Brothers flourished for 40 years on Pricklers Hill on the Great North Road, High Barnet.

Sadly his brother died from asbestos related cancer in 1988, caused by his work at the factory.

In 1961 Mr Cochrane bought Major School of Motoring and went on to be a successful driving instructor teaching among others, West End star Elaine Paige.

His daughter Pamela was one of his students but said his tendency to bend the rules did not stop when he was a teenager.

“He taught me and I passed my test on my 17th birthday. He had me on the road going through Barnet when I was 13," she said.

“He was a bit of a tickler my Dad. With him it wasn't always by the book but at the same time he was a very proud and distinguished man. Everything was proper like the way he dressed.”

Mr Cochrane enjoyed hockey but his big passion in life was golf, and he was a member of the South Hertfordshire Golf Club in Totteridge Lane for more than 50 years.

His daughter, now Mrs Staffell and 54, added: “He spent a lot of time on the course and in the bar. Even when he wasn't capable of playing anymore he still socialised there. He was also a member of the Conservative Club and played bridge there twice a week."

Mr Cochrane, who lived in Raydean Road, The Coppice, Lyonsdown Road and Longmore Avenue in New Barnet, Meadway Close in High Barnet and Gresley Court in Potters Bar, died on February 18 from heart failure.

He leaves two other daughters, Nicola, 51 and Amanda, 41, and seven grandchildren.