Bomber Command veterans in Gloucestershire to be honoured with new clasp
WAR heroes who fought as part of Bomber Command are being honoured with a new medal.
Airmen who served under Cheltenham-born Sir Arthur 'Bomber' Harris in the Second World War will be given the clasp following the dedication of a memorial in London, 68 years after the end of the war.
The air marshall was a controversial figure following policy of area bombing German cities Cologne and Dresden before the end of the war.
The Bomber Command Clasp will be awarded to around 125,000 veterans of the Bomber Command, or their families.
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William Leech, chairman of the RAF Association Cheltenham, said: "There was real neglect from Churchill onwards that failed to recognise these people.
"They gave their lives for their country. It was dreadful that what they did was not recognised, and it's great news now for the families of those who gave their lives."
Cheltenham resident Air Vice Marshall Tony Mason, who interviewed Sir Arthur in 1977 in a rare public appearance, said the men who had given their lives should have been honoured earlier.
The veteran, who served in the air force for 33 years, called Sir Arthur a determined man.
Mr Mason said: "He was a man who believed he had contributed a great deal to the victory in the Second World War.
"He was hurt that his and his men's sacrifices were not recognised. About 55,000 men died in Bomber Command and they were flying every night with poor odds of them surviving.
"That was a massive contribution to the victory of the Allies and yet they were not given a medal."
Mr Mason defended the air marshal for his actions in the war, which have been the subject of controversy in the years since. "Harris was condemned for decisions which were not his, but orders from Winston Churchill himself, but he took the can for it," he added.
"It is very good news that they have finally agreed to recognise these men. It is 68 years too late, and the sacrifices of these men have finally been acknowledged.
"It takes a lot of courage to go into combat once but to go in every other night knowing your chances of survival and success were highly against you required bravery of a different kind."