Ipswich: Bomber Command recognition has come far too late, says veteran
PUBLISHED: 11:59 04 January 2013
WHEN war in Europe finally came to an end in 1945, their sacrifice was largely ignored.
Of the thousands of people who served in Bomber Command, which helped bring Hitler’s war machine to its knees, about 55,000 perished.
Now, more than 65 years after the end of the Second World War, the members of Bomber Command have finally been recognised and could be in line for a new clasp, according to Prime Minister David Cameron.
But for one war veteran, the decision has come far too late.
Bernie Dye, of Lancing Avenue in Ipswich, served on 30 operations as an air gunner during the conflict, which included raids on Germany and bombing coastlines just before D-Day.
“At the time, our losses were so heavy that every time you finished an operation, you were grateful to be on terra firma,” said the 88-year-old.
“We never got a thank you, we were just forgotten. The people who survived through the war, they all knew what we did and they thanked us, but not the politicians.
“We were just snubbed after the war.
“It is too late for those we have lost and for their relatives.”
Bomber Command facts
■ At the start of the war, Bomber Command consisted of nearly 500 bombers – most of which were obsolete.
■ Lieutenant general Sir Arthur Harris was named as the commander of Bomber Command in 1942.
■ Sir Arthur developed the force, which went on to consist of about 125,000 volunteers.
■ It was involved with bombing Germany’s industrial heartland.
■ In the latter part of the war, it dropped food to areas of the Netherlands in Operation Manna.
■ 55,573 crew members died, 8,000 were injured and about 10,000 became prisoners.
■ A monument to Bomber Command was unveiled in June, 2012.
Mr Dye served at Mildenhall, 622 Squadron, for about nine months during the conflict and reached the rank of Warrant Officer – the highest rank for a non commissioned officer.
Those who served in Bomber Command were given a one in 20 chance of being killed on their raids and of the 62 men that Mr Dye served with – just 17 survived.
He said: “We lived together like families.
“We went to the sergeant’s mess morning, midday and evening, we drunk there in the evening and most of us had trained together for several months.”
“I’ve seen them come back in tears when they hear of the crews that were lost. You remember their faces and their names, it’s sad to think they never lived to enjoy a life really,” he added.
The decision to recognise the men of Bomber Command has come after a review into war medals by British diplomat, Sir John Holmes.
Those who served in the Arctic Convoys will also be recognised in the new awards but it is expected to be several months until they can finally be received.
For Mr Dye, it is a relief that the decision has been made, but his thoughts still go to his comrades.
He said: “I would accept it and I would be proud to think “at last”, but for the thousands that died, it’s too late.”