Friday 15 June 2012

Britain was almost no country for a brave, old Second World War rear gunner from Bomber Command called Freddie Johnson

A recent article in the 'Daily Mail' was entitled :

Betrayal of a hero: He flew 92 missions as a rear gunner in the Second World War. So why won't bureaucrats let Freddie Johnson, 91, attend the unveiling of a memorial to his comrades in Bomber Command?

It made the following points about Freddie, that he :

* was 20 when he joined the RAF and as a rear gunner in 1939  had a life expectancy of 3 weeks but survived the War and earned 6 medals including the 'distinguished flying cross'.

* was  a survivor of 92 bombing missions 25 over Germany, as well as stints in Burma and North Africa in Wellington and Halifax bombers and during five years of service was shot down twice.

* badly damaged his leg in another operation and was in hospital when his medal and letter from the King arrived and still has pins in his legs and suffers severe arthritis.

* had his closest shave at El Alamein in 1942, when his plane was shot down and had a stroke of luck when the turret  where he was sitting came away as the aircraft crashed, while the front end exploded, killing four men and despite being behind enemy lines, marched off into the desert and was picked up by a group of British soldiers who had spotted the crash.

* at the age of 91 and in a wheelchair, should have been a VIP guest at the unveiling of a long-awaited unveiling of the 6.5 million, 'Bomber Command Memorial', for which he had helped to raise money, in Green Park in London on June 28th.

Tribute: Mr Johnson has raised funds for the ¬£6.5million Bomber Command memorial in Green Park, London* was told he couldn't attend the ceremony because there were no tickets left and found out too late that veterans had to apply for tickets, like anyone else wanting to attend.

* like other veterans, was determined that 55,573 bomber crew who lost their lives should have a fitting memorial and said: " I would have loved to have gone. I was very pleased when I heard it was being built."

* remains fiercely proud of his war years and his wife Jean, 85, believes the authorities have let him down saying : "It's a shame. He is bitterly disappointed. There can't be that many veterans left who saw such long service and were presented with so many medals. This memorial is what my husband has been waiting for. At one point in the war the bombers were all we had. The bombers deserve this."

* was told that the memorial organisers 'were extremely sorry' that he and other veterans had been unable to get tickets  and that they had been 'absolutely overwhelmed by demand' and had a licence limiting them to 6,500 guests' which they couldn't exceed.

The memorial, a sculpture which features seven bomber air crew members, is expected to be unveiled by the Queen and is seen as overdue recognition for the bomber crews whose place in history has been widely played down because of the high number of civilian deaths they caused.

As a happy P.S. :

Within hours of the article about Freddie, his family received a call from Royal Air Force organisers to tell them that two tickets would be provided after all.

No comments:

Post a Comment