BOMBER COMMAND MEDAL CAMPAIGN
- In pursuit of a Fair Review
GETTING GEORGE HIS MEDAL
A Second World War veteran has been awarded with an Air Crew Europe Star 75 years after he became eligible for it, and after having being denied it by the Ministry of Defence Medals Office in 2017
George Verden shown on the left, with his crew in August 1944.
Pic. Courtesy of Mr Peter Verden
George Verden who is 97, joined the RAF in 1941 when he was 18 years old, and served as a Wireless Operator and Rear Gunner. Completing 49 operations in total, with 22 before D-Day. He had previously mislaid his slip of paper, which listed the medals to which he was entitled after the war. Helped by his local MP Michael Ellis, in 2017, George was then granted the 1939-45 Star, together with the France and Germany Star. In addition, he discovered later that year, that he was also eligible for the Legion d'Honneur, which was France's highest order for military and civil merits. The French President announced that this distinction would be awarded to all British veterans who fought for the liberation of France during the Second World War between 1944 and 1945.
The 2017 article regarding George’s medal awards was picked up by the Bomber Command Medal Campaign Group during their research work. They have undertaken extensive research to support a further review for the medallic recognition of Bomber Command, after the clasp that was issued in 2013 was not well received by many veterans. It was noted by, a campaign member, that the slip of paper, photographed in the article, stated that George was entitled to the 1939-45 Star, the Air Crew Europe Star with the France and Germany clasp.
George had been advised by the medals office in 2017, that he was not entitled to the Air Crew Europe Star as he had not commenced operations early enough, before D-Day and was presented with the 1939-45 Star and the France and Germany Star.
The “Letter of the Law Interpretation,” that the 1939-45 Star has to be earned first before the Air Crew Europe Star can be earned has now been made redundant by the research which the campaign group have carried out. A 1946 document, held at the National Archives, clarifies the change of rule between two published statements, issued in 1945 and 1946, on medal awards after the war. It confirms that, although four months (120 days) still have to be served by aircrew to qualify for both the 1939-45 Star and the Air Crew Europe Star, the first two months (60 days) can be attributed to the Air Crew Europe Star. For further information see Air Crew Europe Star. This 1946 change of rule meant that George was rightfully entitled to an Air Crew Europe Star.
Contact was made with Georges son, Peter, and a fresh application was submitted to the Ministry of Defence's medals office together with a supporting letter from the campaign group. The medals office have now implemented this correct rule in George's case and we are now pleased to say that George received his rightfully earned medal last week, which he is so thrilled to have received.”
It is of concern to campaigners, for a fair medal review for Bomber Command, that in their opinion, there are many unacceptable inconsistencies and anomalies with regards to their awards, compared other World War Two service medals. The Ministry of Defence continue to refuse to support the group’s submission to the Advisory Military Sub-Committee, which is soon to be re-established, to consider historical cases.
The “not well known rule,” relating to the Air Crew Europe Star was one of the main issues raised by the campaign group. Heather group said that, “in our view, this needs careful consideration by the Ministry of Defence medals office, there is a high possibility of misapplication of rules and the potential that many veterans have been unfairly denied the award.” She added, “another issue concerning medallic recognition of the aircrews of Bomber Command, is that in our view, the Air Crew Europe Star had such restrictive and unfair eligibility criteria compared to other campaign stars; in our opinion these two issues together, highlight the need for an in depth reconsideration.”
Many veterans like George may have been unfairly denied the award. The Ministry of Defence Medal office have apologised for initially denying George his medal and have assured the campaign group that any future applications will be considered in light of the 1946 change of rules.
Jim Wright said, “It would be grossly unfair if many veterans have been denied awards due to misinterpreting the eligibility criteria. I am aware that some of my comrades have struggled with the medal office when trying to apply for medals, which they believe that they are entitled to. This needs putting right quickly before we are all gone.”
In 2013 the Arctic Convoy veterans, after the 2012 Military Medals Review, were presented with a new Star; the Arctic Star, whilst Bomber Command received a clasp. Many veterans did not apply for the Bomber Command Clasp in 2012, and those that did were unhappy with the award. The wartime definition of a clasp, which Prime Minister Winston Churchill requested to be documented, was an award, “to signify participation in particular battles of the campaign, or phase of the campaign for which the medal or star is given.” A clasp does not accord with the service which Bomber Command gave, they served for a long five years and eight months, it was a campaign in its own right and a medal would have been more appropriate, or alternatively an extension to the Air Crew Europe Star, which ceased at D-Day, to the end of the war.
Ivor Foster, a veteran who tried to start a campaign of his own in January 2008 for a proper campaign medal said, “All we got given was a bit of metal with Bomber Command on it, which meant nothing. The Air Crew Europe Star should have been extended to the end of the war.”
Squadron Leader (Ret’d) Johnny Johnson MBE DFM, and who is the last of the 133 men who went on the famous Dambuster Raid, has always maintained that the Clasp was an insult, particularly to the 55,573 who lost their lives. He said, “We never received a Campaign Medal and a new medal would eradicate all of this inconsistent treatment and incorrect denial of awards. It is such a mess, a travesty of justice and in my view there is only one solution. This would put the whole unfair situation to bed, once and for all.”
The 2012 Military Medals review included the incorrect interpretation of this rule and due to this unacceptable inconsistency which we have come across, along with others, the whole case needs a thorough review. Substantiated for a new medal, but also for the extension of the Air Crew Europe Star which ceased on 5th June 1944.” The submission, updated in April 2019, to take account of the Air Crew Star issue and 1939-45 Star issue, has now been submitted to the Honours and Decorations Committee. In our view, it has raised significant inconsistencies and anomalies relating to the Air Crew Europe Star, the 1939-45 Star and the 2013 Bomber Command Clasp.
In view of these issues and the existence of the Armed Forces Covenant, which should surely extend to the psychological feelings of the veterans, and they are urging the Ministry of Defence to support them.
George shown here, holding his new Air Crew Europe Star awith France and Germany Clasp