Alex Hurrell, Reporter
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Pressure is mounting on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to relax its strict rules and grant Bomber Command clasps to two Norfolk second world war heroes.
Norwich South MP Simon Wright has joined battle on behalf of his constituent, Jack Webster, who has been denied the new honour - despite having flown five Bomber Command operations over Germany including one in which his Lancaster was hit by flak.
Mr Wright said he felt “the case was compelling” for granting Mr Webster the clasp and he would be pursuing his cause with the MoD.
Mr Webster, 88, of Glenda Road, New Costessey, has fallen foul of rigid qualification criteria which lay down set time periods of service which veterans must fulfil.
As reported in yesterday’s EDP, Bomber Command veteran John Joyner, 89, of Burnt Hills, Cromer, has also been refused the award because he had clocked up 52 days when the war ended, but the rules state those eligible for the clasp must have 60 days’ service.
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said it sounded as if Mr Joyner had a good case and he would be happy to take it up on his behalf. And Broadland MP Keith Simpson, a military historian, said the MoD needed to show respect and charity and “give in”.
Wireless operator Mr Webster was on his final operation, to Bremen, when: “We felt a sudden shudder - we had been hit. We carried on but when we landed we found the port aileron on the tail plane had been shot away and there was a large hole in the fuselage.”
He has had his application for the clasp, and appeal, rejected because he had only served seven out of the regulation 60 days, after already having served 60 days to qualify for the 1939-1945 Star.
Mr Webster joked dryly: “It was very inconsiderate of Adolf Hitler to surrender so early. I think one operation alone is enough. I’ve got three medals, but absolutely nothing to show I was air crew, or even that I was in the RAF. I think the rules are petty.”
Mr Wright said he was very disappointed at Mr Webster’s rejection. “Given the huge feats of bravery involved in missions and the high degree of risk I think he should be awarded the clasp,” he added.
Mike Leverington, of Banningham Court, North Walsham, is angry that his father, who lives in Hampshire, has also been turned down.
Mr Leverington senior, who will be 93 tomorrow, has also been told that he does not meet the time rules because he spent from June 28 1944 until the end of the war as a prisoner of war after being shot down on his fourth or fifth Bomber Command operation.
“He was on the run from the Germans for six weeks until he was betrayed by a traitor in the French Resistance and captured by the gestapo. He spent time in Buchenwald concentration camp before the Luftwaffe arranged his transfer to Stalag Luft lll the day before he was due to be shot. He eventually got back to England after the war finished,” said Mike Leverington.
“Because he was shot down less than 60 days into his operational tour, he does not satisfy the criteria. It’s absolutely scandalous. What he went through was dreadful.”