Lancaster bomber hero, 97, can finally clasp long-awaited medal

An RAF veteran who flew the last Lancaster back to Britain during the Second World War has finally been awarded his medal, eight years after he became eligible for one.

Former Squadron Leader Ken Symonds, 97, lost an engine during the final raid of Bomber Command’s Europe offensive above Berchestgaden in the Bavarian Alps, where Adolf Hitler holidayed in his Eagles Nest retreat.

Ken Symonds on board a Lancaster in 1945

Damage caused to Sq Ldr Symonds’s plane meant his was the last to return to RAF Syerston following the sortie on April 25, 1945.

Veterans who served with Bomber Command were only entitled to a clasp in 2013 in recognition of their bravery and sacrifice after being overlooked for decades because of the number of civilian casualties.

But Sq Ldr Symonds, from Martinstown, near Dorchester, Dorset, did not receive his clasp at the time.

It was only when his neighbour Deborah Follett took him to the Imperial War Museum Duxford for his birthday in July that it was noticed he didn’t have the clasp on his medals.

Ms Follett applied to the MoD on Sq Ldr Symonds’ behalf, only to be told it would take months to process. So she contacted their local MP, who also lobbied the MoD, and the clasp arrived days later.

‘It is extremely important to me to get this’

Now the veteran has been presented with the clasp to go with his Air Force Cross and his other war medals.

The widower said: “I am very pleased to have it and am only sorry that I missed out on it first time around. It is extremely important to me to get this.”

He receives his clasp from MP Chris Loder, who chased up the award

Ms Follett, who is also Sq Ldr Symonds’ voluntary carer, said she didn’t know why he did not receive the honour in 2013.

Chris Loder, Conservative MP for West Dorset, said: “This was a small but significant gesture of thanks to one of the last surviving members of our greatest generation, to whom we all owe so much.”

Sq Ldr Symonds served in 49 Squadron and flew on seven bombing runs over Germany towards the end of the war.

On May 4, 1945, he flew British PoWs home from Europe and then piloted his Lancaster over Buckingham Palace on VE Day four days later. He remained in the RAF and saw service in North Africa, Italy, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, US and Vietnam.

Bomber Command suffered the highest casualty rate of the British Armed Forces in the Second World War, losing 55,573 of the 125,000 who served. The average age of those who died was 23.

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