Chrystabel Leighton Porter, who found fame as the model for the wartime Jane cartoon strip, has died of cancer.

Chrystabel, who lived in Horsham, had a stage career spanning 20 years and was still making public appearances a year before her death.

But it as the model for the Jane cartoon in the Daily Mirror that she will be best remembered.

The cartoon, entitled Jane or the Diary of a Bright Young Thing, appeared in The Mirror six days a week and depicted a series of mishaps which resulted in Jane's clothes being ripped or torn off for totally innocent reasons.

Its popularity peaked during the Second World War, when prime minister Winston Churchill labelled Jane the British war effort's secret weapon.

But if it was Chrystabel's beauty which made her the forces' darling, it was her personality which continued to win people over until her death.

Her husband Arthur, to whom she was married for more than 50 years, said: "She was a very special person. She is the only person I know who could put her finger in a bucket of water and leave an impression. She made an impression on everybody she met."

Chrystabel, a twin, grew up in Eastleigh, Hampshire, the youngest of eight surviving children.

She showed early promise as a swimming champion but soon started entering beauty contests, winning the Miss Great Britain contest and the title the Venus of Kent.

After leaving school she modelled for life classes at art colleges. Then in the 1940s she was spotted by the Jane artist Norman Pett and a legend was born.

Jane was adopted as the RAF's mascot and Chrystabel received endless fan mail.

She made frequent appearances for the armed forces and performed a revue show called Jane in the Mirror which toured round the country.

Lew and Lesley Grade were her agents and, with the backing of a troupe of chorus girls, she recreated a series of Janey situations.

As in the cartoon, she had to lose as many clothes as was legally possible.

When she wed her husband Arthur, an RAF pilot, at the end of the war, the match had to be kept secret so as not to disappoint Jane's admirers.

In 1950 Chrystabel made a film called The Adventures of Jane, partly filmed in Brighton, Rottingdean and the South Downs.

At one point The Mirror tried to axe the Jane cartoon strip but its switchboard was jammed with complaints.

Eventually they asked Norman to do one hasty cartoon just to hold the fort.

He did a small drawing with Jane peering round a curtain saying: "Give me a break, boys, I can't find my panties."

And the next day Fleet Street was blocked with delivery vans and taxis bringing little parcels of panties.

But its popularity gradually waned and the strip finally ended in 1959, with the final frame depicting Jane and her sweetheart Georgie Peorgie rowing off into the sunset to be married.

In the late Sixties Chrystabel moved to Bermuda for three years with her husband and on her return to England, Chrystabel devoted her time to bringing up her son, Simon, in Horsham.

A book of cartoons called Jane: The War Years appeared in 1976 but it was the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Britain in 1980 which revived her career.

In 1982 the BBC produced a live action graphic cartoon series and a feature film followed in 1988 called Jane and the Lost City.

In 1999 she was diagnosed with cancer and after an exploratory operation doctors said it was impossible to cure her.

She underwent radiotherapy which affected her badly and she became too unwell to continue with her public engagements.

For a while she seemed to recover, then four weeks ago she collapsed suddenly.

Chrystabel spent her last three weeks in St Catherine's Hospice, Crawley. She died yesterday.

Mr Leighton Porter, said: "She was a very glamorous woman who led a very interesting life. She will be missed by an incredible amount of people."