SURVIVING heroes of Bomber Command finally received recognition of their gallantry yesterday... almost 70 years after the end of the war.
At an emotional gala ceremony at Downing Street, 25 airmen – described as the “bravest of the brave” – proudly received a golden clasp. It means the select band of veterans can wear the clasp on the ribbon of their 1939-45 campaign medal and rights a seven-decade injustice. Until yesterday, the 125,000 men who made up Bomber Command received no official thanks for their heroism during the Second World War. Such was the importance of yesterday’s reception that David Cameron described meeting the crewmen as the proudest day of his premiership. The creation of the Bomber Command clasp follows a long-running campaign spearheaded by the Daily Express and backed by our army of readers. Only around 5,000 Bomber Command airmen are still alive. But the memory of tens of thousands of wartime airmen will be kept going as the families of servicemen who died can apply to receive the new honour. The veterans, all in their 80s and 90s, were treated to afternoon tea in Downing Street’s state rooms. Mr Cameron sat “spellbound” listening to boys’ own adventure stories of daring raids carried out by hero airmen like Jack Watson, Gerry Abrahams and Charles Clarke. Almost half of those serving with Bomber Command died, many killed by night fighters and anti-aircraft fire in raids over occupied Europe. It was the heaviest casualty rate of any British unit in the conflict. No campaign medals were ever awarded and, until last year, there was no permanent memorial. The vision and determination of veterans together with Daily Express owner Richard Desmond and the late Bee Gees singer Robin Gibb led to a stunning memorial to the fallen being erected in Green Park, London. Tens of thousands of readers were so moved by tales of courage and selflessness that £500,000 was raised, a sum matched by Mr Desmond.
Former diplomat Sir John Holmes said Bomber Command veterans were treated “inconsistently” in comparison with their Fighter Command counterparts. It was his stinging criticism that led to Mr Cameron announcing the award of a new clasp for the “heroic” veterans. The Prime Minister told veterans the honour was an “overdue” decision and Britain owed them all a “huge debt of gratitude”. In a speech he said: “We are proud of all you did for our country. I can’t think of a prouder day I have had in this job, or a group of people I am more honoured to share it with.” Forty seamen were also awarded the newly created Arctic Star medal yesterday. More than 3,000 men died over four years from 1941 on missions to keep open supply lines to Soviet ports, travelling what Winston Churchill dubbed the “worst journey in the world”. Retired Commander Eddie Grenfell, 93, who led a 16-year campaign for recognition, was unable to make yesterday’s ceremony, so General Sir David Richards, the Chief of the Defence Staff, visited his home in Portsmouth for a unique private ceremony. Source: Express
Via Forces War Records Blog.