Bomber command crews finally recognized for their heroic efforts.

August 27, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  They waited years for this – seventy years to be exact but earlier this week the Canadian government formally recognized the members of Canada’s World War II bomber command by issuing a clasp that would be attached to the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal.

Awarded to all those who served as volunteers during World War II. Members of Bomber Command who are still alive will now get a clasp to go with the medal.

The Canadian Volunteer Service Medal was awarded to every person of any rank in the Naval, Military or Air Forces of Canada who voluntarily served on Active Service and honourably completed eighteen months (540 days) total voluntary service from September 3, 1939 to March 1, 1947.

Of about 50,000 Canadians who served in bomber crews during the war, nearly 11,000 died.

Henry James Hewitt of Oshawa was one of the GTA resident who was honoured last week. Burlington veterans will be awarded their medals in due course.

These men were just beyond being boys.  They flew missions that were dangerous and far too many of them didn’t return. Earlier this week far too many of them were no longer alive and able to accept the recognition they deserved.

We celebrate the Battle of the Atlantic Sunday because Canada was such a vital part of that part of the fight.  It was our frigates that assembled in the Bedford basin part of Halifax harbour and prepared to begin the treacherous journey across the Atlantic knowing full well that submarines lurked below the surface of those tossing seas.

A Lancaster bomber during a run – those black marks are not clouds – they are anti-aircraft shells exploding.

The men who flew the Lancaster bombers out over Germany time after time dropping bay loads of bombs on cities that were railheads for the movement of trains and troops and munitions, each time flying into a hail of anti-aircraft fire that brought down hundreds of our aircraft.

They were so young, so willing – we lost far too many of them.

The crews of those bombers were tightly knit groups who never knew when they lifted off if they were going to return to touch down.

The clasp given to these men, people from the Greater Toronto area were the first to be recognized, will be added to the medals they already have.  But this little bit of medal will mean so much more to those who were part of bomber command.  It was a recognition that was long past due and hopefully the Ministry of Veterans Affairs will make that special effort to ensure that every living member is found and given their clasp and that the families of those who are not with us any more are also found and given the clasp.

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2 comments to Bomber command crews finally recognized for their heroic efforts.

  • Pat Donovan

    My Father, Gerald Donovan was one of the lucky ones. His plane was shot down over France on the return to England in August 1944 but he and 3 others of the 7 crew members of the Halifax where able to parachute out of their plane. (Remaining 3 pershed) The 4 crew member stuck together through the night while the Germans seach for them in the field where they landed. In the morning they where met by French farmers and introduced to they local underground and over several weeks traveled through the French countryside until one night they were met by the Canadian Army as they advance toward Paris and the liberation of France.
    I am grad these brave men have received this honour. For sure they earned it
    Pat Donovan

  • John Birch

    My late father, Lancaster Pilot F/L J O Birch RCAF attached to RAF 103 Squadron (The Black Swans) at Elshom Wolds received a DFC for action over Stuttgart July 27/28 1944. His plane was badly shot up at the start of his bomb run-in by a night fighter, losing his stbd rudder, tailplane, fuel tanks hit and no hydraulics or operable turrets, but he managed to drop his bombs on target and bring it back, barely in control, by constantly trimming the engines and with help of his aircrew to do a belly landing at White Walsham SW of London.

    That night was the worst night for 103 Squadron during WWII, with 50% of the aircraft detailed to the Stuttgart Operation either damaged or shot down.

    His award and citation are on the RCAF Awards and Citations page. Chilling read, and all those fine young men who never made it home.

    A crew had a 10% chance of successfully bailing out of a Lanc going down. Bomber Command had the second highest casualty rate (54%) of any service except the U-Boat’s (80% almost all fatalites)

    We really have no idea how lucky we are to be alive today.

    And how much we owe them all.