End in sight for veteran’s fight to honour comrades

A RETIRED tail-gunner on a World War II bomber is on the cusp of winning a 60-year battle to honour his comrades.

A RETIRED tail-gunner on a World War II bomber is on the cusp of winning a 60-year battle to honour his comrades.

Exton’s Joe Williams, 88, a warrant officer who as part of a seven-man Lancaster crew flew on countless sorties over occupied Europe, has been told that his bid to build permanent tribute to all bomber crews has been granted permission.

And now he is appealing for donations to make the vision become a reality.

Plans by the Queen to unveil a tribute in Green Park, London, are already under way, but Mr Williams has long campaigned that it would be more fitting to place a memorial at Beachy Head near Eastbourne.

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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.

And now planners have given the all clear for a 6ft-high polished granite tribute and Mr Williams hopes it will be built in time for Britain’s largest air show, the Eastbourne International on August 11.

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The lack of recognition for the crews stems from the controversy of the area bombing of 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 said: “It‘s been a scandal they have not been 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 the lives.”

He said that the long passage of time has changed ‘the perception’ of the war with the younger generation.

“A Bomber Command tribute at Beachy Head will help restore the proper place in history that those lost deserve.”

Donations can be made at the Nationwide Building Society, account number 0416/ 704147422.

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