May 23 2013 Latest news:
Alistair Kleebauer, Senior reporter
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Two Second World War veterans from Redbridge who flew on 65 operations between them were honoured for their service today – though both men believe it is nearly 70 years “too late”.
Maurice Conway, of Cranbrook Road and Leslie Temple, of Beehive Lane, both in Gants Hill and both 88, were part of RAF Bomber Command during the global conflict, flying on bombing sorties across occupied Europe.
They were guests today with other veterans and widows’ wives from the bombing squadrons, of the Prime Minister in Downing Street and received a clasp recognising the Bomber Command.
To be worn over their 1939-1945 service medals, the clasp, along with the unveiling of the Bomber Command memorial in Green Park last summer, demonstrates a switch in the official treatment of the men.
Often seen as marking an uneasy chapter in the history of how the Allied forces won the war, Bomber Command targeted industrial areas and their workers in Germany, but also heavily-populated cities such as Cologne and Dresden.
For Mr Conway, a flying officer and air gunner in the Canadian 420 squadron nicknamed the Snowy Owls, the bombing of Dresden in 1945, which resulted in around 25,000 people being killed, led to Bomber Command being treated differently to other veterans.
He said: “It’s quite something to meet the Prime Minister.
“We’re so disappointed that it’s 70 years too late, that’s what needles us.
“When the European war finished, [Sir Winston] Churchill made a big speech, he thanked the army, the navy, he never mentioned Bomber Command.
“We were the only ones taking the war to Germany.”
And Mr Temple added: “Before the peace, Churchill said he couldn’t have won the war without us but he didn’t mention us on VE Day.”
The awarding of the clasps followed a review by diplomat Sir John Holmes, who concluded Bomber Command veterans were treated “inconsistently” with those who served in the RAF’s Fighter Command.
For more about both men’s service during the Second World War, get Thursday’s Recorder.