Thursday, February 20, 2014
One of the few surviving members of Bomber Command has been awarded the Royal Air Force Association’s highest honour for 63 years of relentless campaigning to get his fallen comrades recognised.
World War Two warrant officer Joe Williams, 92, from Exton, was presented with the RAFA National Presidential Certificate by Retired Air Vice Marshall Pat O’Reilly at Exmouth’s RAFA Club.
Mr Williams, who served as a wireless operator and tail gunner in a seven-man Lancaster Bomber crew which flew on countless sorties over occupied Europe, has been honoured for his vision to build a permanent tribute to all bomber crews.
Although the Queen has unveiled a tribute in Green Park, London, Mr Williams founded the Bomber Command Beachy Head Committee because he believed that a memorial at Beachy Head near Eastbourne was a more fitting site.
He says it was the last sight of England ever seen by more than half the bomber crews – of all the services, Bomber Command suffered the heaviest losses with 55,575 men dying out of 110,000, a less than a one-in-two chance of survival.
The lack of recognition for the crews stems from the controversy of the area bombing of German cities.
The USAF would bomb by day and the RAF by night – but, until 1942, technology did not allow for any more precise targeting than, at best, a district of a town by night bombing.
And because all large German cities like Dresden, Duisburg and Brunswick contained important industrial districts they were considered legitimate targets.
But Mr Williams is in no doubt that a protracted war would have cost thousands more lives.
He told the Journal: “It‘s been a scandal they were not recognised for 60 years.
“The survivors of Bomber Command have endured the denigration of their undoubted and decisive contribution to victory in the war.
“Sadly, over all those years, many veterans have passed on, bearing that denigration to the end of their lives.
“A Bomber Command tribute at Beachy Head helped restore the proper place in history that those lost deserve.”