Gallery: Former member of Bomber Command tells of pride as brothers in arms finally honoured

JOHN Studd has never forgotten a moment spent with his comrades of Bomber Command.

The 87-year-old, who was born and raised in Ipswich, remembers enlisting like it was yesterday and the rigorous training he went through before being chosen as an air gunner and a bomb navigator.

By the time he was just 23 he had experienced the horrors and heartache of war. But he still describes himself as one of the lucky few who made it through and returned to Ipswich.

In June, a lasting memorial was unveiled in a special ceremony in the heart of London. The memorial stands to honour those who fought in the Bomber Command – those who survived and those who never made it home.

Campaigners fought a long and hard battle to secure the memorial.

Fighting back the tears, Mr Studd, of Post Mill Close, Ipswich, told of his happiness at the memorial – but also his sadness that it has taken almost seven decades to come to fruition.

Mr Studd, who completed two tours under Bomber Command during the Second World War, said: “Ever since the war ended we have been waiting for some form of recognition. So many men lost their lives and this is just so important. It is very sentimental and makes me feel very emotional.”

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His story begins in August 1941 when he enlisted in the Royal Air Force. After training with the Cadet Corps and moving around the country learning new skills, he joined Bomber Command’s 101 squadron. Soon after he learnt his role and after more training he began operations across Germany.

“You would stand there just waiting to hear your name called out,” he said. “And then all of a sudden my name was called. And that was when I learnt I was to be the bomb navigator.

“I was also to begin training as an air gunner. I had to drop the bombs and fire guns.”

During John’s first four operations he travelled over Dortmund. However on returning from one operation he had a lucky escape when his plane crash landed. All of John’s crew survived the crash but his future-brother-in-law was left injured.

“Two of our crew said they weren’t going to fly any more. But we came back after a while and we went back to Dortmund for the dawn raids.

“We were than involved in the Ruhr Valley and returned there three times during 1943, one of which was for the Great Fire Raid.

“In total I completed 24 successful operations and two which were aborted in 1943.”

After completing his first tour, Mr Studd returned and joined the 35 squadron in St Neots, Cambridgeshire.

When he was assigned to his crew with 35 squadron, a last minute change was made and he went with a different team.

“The crew I had initially been signed up with never made it back during an operation,” he said. “Yet I did. How lucky can you get?”

“So many people lost their lives, so many young men. They were just boys and so was I. I had seen all of this war before I had even turned 23 years old.”

After the war, in December 1945, Mr Studd went to India to continue his service before he was eventually demobbed and returned to Ipswich.

He went back to work with Ipswich Electric Supply and Transport.

Since then Mr Studd has visited an RAF memorial in Plymouth, erected in honour of the Bomber Command, where he reflected on his time spent with his unit. He has also returned to Europe to spend time with other members of the RAF through the Heroes Return 2 programme.

“I look at that memorial in Plymouth and I see myself,” he said. “I see myself from back then and I see all the men I fought with. We were all of no age at all, really.

“I can’t believe that this memorial in London – a national memorial – has finally been unveiled. I think it must be pretty wonderful. Many men haven’t lived long enough to see that we have finally got this honour. I always hoped this would happen.

“Around half of the men in Bomber Command died during operations. This is for them.”

SIXTY-seven years after the end of the Second World War, a permanent memorial finally honours members of the Bomber Command who were killed in action.

The Queen unveiled the memorial for the airmen from Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Poland, and other Commonwealth and Allied nations in June

The airmen were admired by the public for their dangerous work.

By 1943 aircrews had just a one in four chance of surviving 30 missions, the typical number on a bomber tour. Many of the aircrew were barely older than 20 when they joined the command and 55,573 airmen did not return from their tours.

The memorial was dedicated by the Venerable Ray Pentland, who said it would serve as a reminder of the “bravery and skill” of all those who served under Bomber Command.

The monument stands at the corner of Green Park, facing Piccadilly.

At its centre is a bronze sculpture by Philip Jackson of seven men – typical of a bomber crew.

Five Tornado bombers flying by in a V formation concluded the service, which was attended by 12 members of the Royal family, and signalled the arrival of last flying Lancaster in Britain which passed overhead and showered red poppies from its bomb bay.

Some 800 former members of the Bomber Command were in attendance including 80 Australians, 54 Canadians, 39 New Zealanders and former airmen from France, Norway, Poland and Slovakia. Members of the public watched the proceedings from Piccadilly.

The memorial cost �9.5 million and was partially funded by donors including Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees.

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