Epilogue

Epilogue

Like many survivors of Bomber Command, it was a great disappointment that the contribution of Bomber Command to bringing the war to an end was not officially recognised.  In fact, a motion to do so was rejected by the  Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals of the British Parliament in 1946.  Fifty six thousand members of Bomber Command were killed in the years 1939 - 1945. Forty four percent of aircrew never returned.  While we recognise that the bombing raids carried out over Germany resulted in huge loss of life in the civilian population, for a long time it has been felt that to denigrate those brave souls who went out night after night as they were commanded, knowing that their chance of survival was about 50/50, was a grave injustice.  In 2009 the British Parliament debated a motion to right this injustice and to award Bomber Command their recognition through an individual clasp to the Victory Medal (1939-1945 Star) and a Bomber Command War Memorial. 

The following was placed before Parliament:

The Motion:

That this House considers that it is more than time that a campaign medal should be issued for those who served in Bomber Command between the start of World War Two in 1939 and victory in 1945; recognises the enormous achievement of all Bomber Command's volunteer members of the bomber crew acting as a team in crippling the Nazi war machine and paving the way for the 1944 invasion of Europe, in the course of which Bomber Command lost 1,500 heavy bombers and 56,000 lives, mainly air crew, all sacrificed for their country; and further considers that the failure of the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals at the end of the war to recognise service in Bomber Command as an operational qualification for decorations was a mistake that should now be rectified for this unique service.

The debate, in part, reads;

 

World War II: Bomber Command



Question for Short Debate



To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will accord formal recognition to the men and women of Bomber Command during the Second World War.


14 May 2009 : Column 1184

The scale of the achievement of the brave men who carried out these wide-ranging essential tasks was expressed by Sir Winston Churchill, when he wrote at the end of the war to Sir Arthur Harris, Air Officer Commander-in-Chief, Bomber Command:

“All your operations were planned with great care and skill. They were executed in the face of desperate opposition and appalling hazards. They made a decisive contribution to Germany’s final defeat. The conduct of the operation has demonstrated the fiery gallant spirit which animated your air crews and the high sense of duty of all ranks under your command. I believe that the massive achievements of Bomber Command will long be remembered as an example of duty nobly done”.

Today, there are approximately 30,000 pilots in the air crew of Bomber Command who are still alive. They and the next of kin of those who were killed in action, or who have died since the war, are still waiting for their campaign medal. It really is high time that justice was done for these brave men and women.

I have been trying, in anticipation of this debate, to anticipate the arguments that the Government might use for continuing to refuse this request. I have to say that I cannot think of any that stand up to very close examination. Let me dispose, first, of the bureaucratic argument. It has been said on a number of occasions that, because the Honours, Awards and Decorations Committee had considered this issue in 1946, and then rejected it, it is no longer open to review. I would refute that. There is absolutely no reason I can see why the matter could not now be sent back to the committee for further consideration, or, alternatively, why the Government could not take the decision, thereby acknowledging that the 1946 decision was wrong. Certainly, a decision of that committee cannot be considered irreversible. It really would be a nonsense to hold that a decision made in 1946 is permanently binding, no matter what change there is in circumstances. I will be very interested to hear what the Government have to say on that.

The Early Day Motion put down by my honourable friend Austin Mitchell in another place has now attracted more than 200 signatures. The Canadian Senate, by unanimous resolution, has asked that Britain be approached formally to give,

“belated recognition to the effort and sacrifice made by Bomber Command”.
So there is an increasing political realisation that this anomaly should be corrected.

Their contribution was immense. Their treatment has been shabby and neglectful. It is time this is put right. The time is long overdue, and I hope the Government will recognise it.

The full debate can be found in the records of Parliament:  http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200809/ldhansrd/text/90514-0012.htm

The outcome of the motion put to the British Government was that in 2013 the Queen granted a Bomber Command clasp to the Victory Medal.  Airmen were eligible for the award if they had flown sorties in the period between 1939 and 1945.  To receive the award the airmen or their descendants had to apply for it.

In early 2014 Ken's daughter, Christine, on behalf of her late father and to honour his courage and love of the RAF, applied for the award.  It was not an easy process.  The process was to take over a year.  There have been many, many applications and not a huge number of people to process them.  Patience and persistence was needed to;

  1. Send for the paperwork
  2. Wait weeks
  3. Fill in the paperwork, providing;
    • a list of the sorties flown by Ken between 1939 and 1945
    • proof of these
    • Ken's service number
    • date of his demobilisation
  4. Wait weeks
  5. Receive a warning that none of the above had been received
  6. Reply to say all had been sent to a specific email address and the date of sending
  7. Wait a few days
  8. Receive an answer to say the receiving officer had left and no record of receipt of the paperwork could be found.
  9. Send a copy of the original email and send it all again.
  10. Wait weeks
  11. Receive response and reply to a request for proof of death in the form of a death certificate
  12. Wait weeks
  13. Receive a response and reply to a request for a statutory declaration of next of kinship
  14. Wait, and wait
  15. Receive a response to say the application had been approved and the award would be sent as soon as possible.
  16. Wait, and wait, and wait

Persistence has paid off!  On May 19th 2015, 70 years after Ken was demobilised from the RAF, and 69 years after the Victory Medal was awarded to all but Bomber Command, Christine received the Bomber Command Clasp to the 1939-1945 Star for 1621022 Warrant Officer Kenneth E Ambler, Royal Air Force.

None of this would have been possible, and the tangible evidence of Ken's service would not have been in our hands had he not treasured and kept his RAF logbook, paybook and diary.  With those Christine was able to provide the records and the proof, including signatures through scanning the log books, to enable to award to be made.

    

Was it important? - To Ken? Yes, it would have been.  To Christine? You bet. She has kept faith with her Dad, of whose courage she is immensely proud. To Bomber Command survivors? Absolutely,  it has been an emotional wound for so very long. To their families - I hope so.  I hope it encourages them to keep trying and to obtain that award in their fathers' and grandfathers' memory.

While we do not celebrate war, while we - and they - find war an obscenity and abhorrent, the courage and sacrifice of those who are caught up in conflict and lay their lives and their health and well-being on the line so that our values and way of life may be preserved MUST be honoured and recognised.

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