AS Lionel Clarke bravely fought the flames inside bomb-struck Coventry Cathedral, the last thing on his mind was personal recognition. He was an auxiliary fireman in the Second World War, on duty every night throughout the Blitz and among the first on the scene when the cathedral took a direct hit. Lionel joined a throng of emergency workers who had to cope with a dwindling water supply to tackle the inferno, which gutted the great church leaving just the outside walls and spire standing. It was a nightmare scenario Lionel never forgot – but it has taken 72 years for his wartime valour to be officially acknowledged.
Here the full scale of damage can be seen on Coventry Cathedral from the Luftwaffe Blitz
Somehow, the name of AFS Leading Fireman Clarke was missed off the Roll of Honour and only through the efforts of a care home member of staff has the record finally been put straight. Lionel, who will be 100 in July, has now been presented with the King George VI Defence Medal, originally awarded at the end of the war in 1945 to all personnel who had served in the fire service, police, Home & Coast Guard, Royal Observer Corps and Civil Defence. The solid silver medal, complete with commemorative ribbon, was handed over by Gary Phillips, Warwickshire’s deputy fire officer, in a surprise ceremony at Acorn Lodge in Nuneaton, where Lionel now lives. With his two daughters and son-in-law at his side, and in front of a room full of residents and staff, Lionel was clearly moved. “I never expected this, especially after all these years,” he said. “I am just overwhelmed. All I can say is that every man has their day and this is mine.” Accompanied by fire and rescue service colleagues, Mr Phillips told the gathering: “I feel highly honoured to be able to pay tribute to someone who served his country so bravely. “I am in awe of Lionel, whose working environment during the war was horrendous and who was one of the founding fathers of the fire service, as we know it today. To listen to his story and hear about the kind of fires he attended really is something to be remembered. I think that Lionel and his family can be very proud of his achievements.” Read More http://www.coventrytelegraph.net