A fitting memorial to Bomber Command – but all too late

MANY viewers of the Queen unveiling the memorial to Bomber Command, pictured, must have been impressed by the quality of the bronze workmanship.

This did honour the bravery of all Bomber Command crews.

What many would not realise is that they were all volunteers and as such were governed by different regulations to conscripts and regular members of the armed forces.

My husband was a rear gunner in a Lancaster, a fortunate position for him as the tail snapped off on impact when he crashed on his 39th mission.

They were not expected to survive more than five ops, so imagine his feelings every time he flew after number five.

He was badly burned and his flying kit was destroyed. Being a volunteer he had to pay to replace this kit.

The one other survivor had to climb over his dead crew to escape before the plane was consumed by fire.

The day of this mission, the pilot, as usual, took the plane up to check the engines.

He reported one engine faulty but was told they had to fly as 100 bombers were needed to attack oilfields to delay enemy war effort.

They flew from Italy, but no sooner reached the ocean when the engine cut off. They dropped their bomb into the sea and returned to Italy but could not climb over the mountains and crashed.

A criminal waste of plane and crew in my mind, a feeling of betrayal for my husband.

That he had to pay for his kit added insult to injury.

Yes, I was impressed by the beautiful portrayal, in bronze, of an air crew, but sad to think that the powers that be have waited until now when even the Bomber Command crew survivors have mostly died before their bravery was acknowledged.

At the time no recognition of my husband’s war effort, no dedicated war medal, no ‘homes fit for heroes’ for him, no recognition or treatment of post traumatic stress which affected him for at least 20 years.

He would have been pleased to admire the skills of the bronze work, the life like crew, but all too late.

SHEILA GENT

Whitley Bay