Quibble over eight days costs Norfolk war hero his Second World War honour

Bomber Command veteran John Joyner from Cromer.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Bomber Command veteran John Joyner from Cromer.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A second world war hero from north Norfolk has been denied a new Bomber Command honour because he falls short of the qualifying period by eight days.

And the decision by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been criticised by one of the county's MPs, who said officials should 'show some respect' and give 89-year-old John Joyner the honour.

The veteran needed 60 days' service to receive the newly-created Bomber Command clasp and MoD officials said Mr Joyner's 52 days, which included crucial missions over Germany, was not enough to earn him the honour.

They have turned down both his application for the clasp, and his later appeal against their decision.

The disappointed veteran, of Burnt Hills, Cromer, said he believed all Bomber Command survivors should receive the long-overdue honour - 55,000 of their fellow crew lost their lives.

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'It's nonsense and it's nit-picking. There are so few of us left. ' said Mr Joyner. who holds the War Medal 1939-1945 and France Germany Star.

'Just imagine a man who joined Bomber Command and within two or three days was involved in a really scary operation in Germany for several nights in a row but, because his actual service time didn't amount to 60 days, he's not entitled to the clasp - it's ludicrous, absolute madness.'

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Mr Joyner, who signed up with the RAF Volunteer Reserves aged 17 in 1941, joined Bomber Command's 189 Squadron on March 18 1945 as a mid upper gunner. The qualifying period for the clasp ended on May 8 1945.

He and his Lancaster crew flew their first operation into France and then Germany, as part of an operation called Sweepstake, to divert fighter aircraft away from the main force which was bombing Wesel, in preparation for Field Marshal Montgomery's crossing.

The crew returned safely to their base in Lincolnshire. But their pilot, one of three brothers serving on Lancasters - who had already lost one brother - then learned that his second brother had also been killed.

The tragedy grounded Mr Joyner's crew, who had been about to begin a tour of operations. However, shortly afterwards Mr Joyner was ordered to join another crew for a one-off flight, following the sickness or death of another mid upper gunner. The planes were 'bombed up' and had their engines running when the operation was scrubbed.

Widower Mr Joyner said although his war history might not appear to be one of 'derring do,' he and his fellow crew members had been, nevertheless, 'ready to take part.'

He had felt a 'degree of satisfaction' when parliament announced of the clasp in February this year, after many decades in which the role of Bomber Command had been down-played.

But he said he had been shocked when his application and appeal were both rejected.

He added: 'It seems to be such an anomaly, and unjust. Surely, in the factory where they knock out these clasps, they could make a few more - would it really make such a difference?

'I just wanted to take my clasp and put it with my other medals. Then they would be there for future generations.'

An MoD spokesman said she could not comment on individual cases but they were carefully considering all appeals to ensure the qualification criteria were interpreted correctly.

She added: 'We encourage all RAF veterans who think they may qualify for the Bomber Command clasp to apply so that they might receive the recognition they so richly deserve. Equally, if a veteran believes their application has been incorrectly rejected, we would urge them to lodge an appeal.'

An RAF source said there had been some instances in which veterans had appealed the decision not to award the clasp and the MoD had then reconsidered their application.

Mr Joyner, who ran a pottery business in Loddon for 14 years before moving to Cromer, said he intended to take up the matter with his MP - North Norfolk's Norman Lamb.

Mr Lamb said last night: 'I would be very happy to take up Mr Joyner's case, because it sounds like he has got a good case. I look forward to hearing from him.'

And Mr Joyner's fight has been backed by another of the county's MPs.

Keith Simpson, MP for Broadland and a military historian, said: 'My view is that they should give it to him.

'I know what the MoD will say, that it would set a precedent and that they would get families of others saying they should get a clasp too.

'But I just feel that surely they need to learn the lessons of what happened with the Arctic medals and give in. They should show some respect and charity. 'Most of those who served in Bomber Command are dead now and I'd be amazed if, having given it to him, the MoD suddenly got a rash of applications from others. I think most of them would say good luck to him.'

Here's an excerpt from the letter sent by the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency to Mr Joyner, following his appeal against their rejection of his application:

'After examining your case, the evidence we have from your service record, and the additional information you have provided has shown that you served on Bomber Command with 189 Squadron from March 18 1945.

'As the qualification period for the Bomber Command Clasp stops on May 8, 1945, this makes a cumulative total of days' service of 52.

'Regrettably, this is why you are not eligible for the Bomber Command Clasp and I am therefore bound to uphold the original decision made by the Bomber Command Clasp team.'

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