Betrayal of a hero: He flew 92 missions as a rear gunner in the Second World War. So why won”t bureaucrats let Freddie Johnson, 91, attend the unveiling of a memorial to his comrades in Bomber Command
War Hero Freddie Johnson, 91, won six medals during the warHe was shot down twice during 92 bombing raidsBut despite his efforts, bureaucrats say there are no tickets left for the unveiling so he can”t goNew Bomber Command memorial will be unveiled by the Queen in Green Park, London on June 28
Among a rapidly dwindling band, no one epitomises the courage and heroism of the Bomber Command veterans more than Freddie “Johnny” Johnson.
A survivor of 92 missions during five years of service in the Second World War, the highly decorated rear gunner was shot down twice – once behind enemy lines – but lived to fight another day.
Now aged 91 and a wheelchair user, he could have expected to be a VIP guest at the unveiling of a long-awaited 6.5million Bomber Command memorial in Green Park in central London.
War hero: Rear gunner Freddie Johnson, 91, who has been denied a ticket to the unveiling of the 6.5million bomber command memorial
But despite his distinguished service and years of work helping to raise money for the memorial appeal, Mr Johnson has been told he cannot attend the ceremony on June 28 because there are no tickets left.
The memorial, a sculpture which features seven bomber air crew members, is expected to be unveiled by the Queen.
It is seen as overdue recognition for the bomber crews whose place in history has been widely played down because of the high number of civilian deaths they caused.
Mr Johnson”s family are furious about the snub. They found out too late that veterans had to apply for tickets, like anyone else wanting to attend.
Now the entire allocation has been taken up, largely by relatives of those who served on the bombers, and Mr Johnson has been told he can”t go.
His daughter Mandy Stewart, 56, said: “How can they expect a 91-year-old war veteran to sort this out himself
War heroes: Freddie Johnson (fourth from right, second row up) with his squadron during the war
Serviceman: Freddie Johnson and his wife Jean, pictured during World War II, will be unable to attend the memorial unveiling
“He”s a member of the RAF Association so it couldn”t have been that hard to trace him and invite him to the ceremony.
“We feel that precedence should be given to those who were actually there.”
Mr Johnson, of Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, supported numerous fundraising events over the years which finally led to the memorial being given the go ahead.
He said: “I would have loved to have gone. I was very pleased when I heard it was being built.”
Like many other veterans he was determined that the 55,573 bomber crew who lost their lives should be given a fitting memorial.
Mr Johnson was 20 when he joined the RAF. As a rear gunner he had a life expectancy of six weeks, but went onto survive the entire war and earn six medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, in the process.
Tribute: Mr Johnson has raised funds for the 6.5million Bomber Command memorial in Green Park, London
There were 25 missions over Germany, as well as stints in Burma and North Africa in Wellington and Halifax bombers.
Mr Johnson”s closest shave came at El Alamein in 1942 when his plane was shot down. He survived by a stroke ofluck when the turret of his plane where he was sitting came away as theaircraft crashed into the desert. The front end of the plane exploded, killing four men on board, but he survived.
Despite being behind enemy lines he marched off into the desert and was picked up by a group of British soldiers who had spotted the crash.
Decorated: Freddie was involved in 91 bombing raids during the war – and survived being shot down twice
A second crash occurred when his planewas shot down near the Burma border, and on this occasion everyone survived.
The rear gunner badly damaged his leg in another operation andwas in hospital when his medal and letter from the King arrived. He still has pins in his legs and suffers severe arthritis.
He remains fiercely proud of his war years and his wife Jean, 85, believes the authorities have let him down.
She said: “It”s a shame. He is bitterly disappointed. There can”t be that many veterans left who saw such long service and were presented with so many medals. This memorial is what my husband has been waiting for. At one point in the war the bombers were all we had. The bombers deserve this.”
The memorial organisers said that theywere extremely sorry that Mr Johnson and other veterans had been unableto get tickets to the event.
A spokesman said: “The problem is we have been absolutely overwhelmed by demand for tickets. We have a licence limiting us to 6,500 guests which we cannot exceed, and have prioritised two groups – people who lost relatives such as husbands and fathers, and veterans who flew in the planes.
“But we still probably have at least 1,000 people who would like to attend but cannot come. Other events willbe staged at the memorial later in the year and we would hope that people who cannot get a ticket this time will be able to attend one of those functions.”