The family of a Second World War veteran fear red tape and delay will mean he will never see the recognition he has been promised.
Ronald Carter was a “tail gun Charlie” with a Bomber Command squadron, one of the few survivors the Government announced it intended to honour after a wait of 70 years. When his family applied for the honour, the Ministry of Defence told them that, according to its records, he was dead. The MOD has now accepted it has made a mistake, and has put him on a waiting list.
Mr Carter (88), who is now in poor health in a nursing home, was shot down over France a few days after D Day and was held a prisoner of war in Poland, near the Russian border. His young wife was told he had died in action in Holland, and his name is on the Bomber Command memorial at Runnymede. His son, David, applied for the belated clasp honour as soon as it was announced and is furious at the treatment meted out to his father, despite follow-up letters and phone calls over months on end.
“It is bad enough the British Government waited 70 years to acknowledge these brave men. It is not even a medal, just a clasp, but they can’t even seem to get on with doing that,” he said. “When Winston Churchill thanked for Armed Forces after the war he left out Bomber Command yet 85,000 men lost their lives, more than any other branch. The recognition has been a long time coming.”
As a Padiham teenager, Mr Carter volunteered for air crew and flew 18 missions before being offered the chance to be a glider pilot. But, before he could begin his training, he was asked to join another crew for a mission over Caen, France, and it was there he was shot down. He had to crawl over the body of a dying crewman to jump out of his flaming plane.
“Conditions in the POW camp were horrendous”, said Mr Carter. “When the war was coming to an end they were force-marched at bayonet point through the snow from the Russian border towards Germany. When they got near Berlin Russians told them they could join their Army or become POWs again. Luckily, my dad and three lads from Burnley got out of there. They walked for 11 days, being shot at by everybody, before they found an American camp.
“He had a hard war, and it left scars; he’s had a hard life. Now he’s got galloping dementia, heart problems and cancer. All he has are his memories and his medals.”
An MOD spokesman said: “All those who served in Bomber Command deserve the utmost respect and admiration and applications are processed as quickly as possible to ensure veterans get the recognition they deserve. The MOD has received almost 22,000 applications. A dedicated project team is working to process applications from veterans as a priority.”