Veterans set off for London memorial unveiling

By Ben Parsons

Thirty-two Bomber Command veterans are off to London for the unveiling of a long-awaited memorial.

The former members of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, aged 87 to 94, leave Whenuapai airbase this morning.

Veterans' Affairs New Zealand general manager Rick Ottaway said he was delighted a strong delegation of RNZAF veterans was able to travel to London for the dedication and unveiling next Thursday.

"It's an honour to give these brave RNZAF veterans the opportunity to attend."

More than 90 expressed interest in the trip, but more than 40 applications were subsequently withdrawn when medical checks revealed some veterans could not make the long journey.

The trip is fully funded by Veterans' Affairs New Zealand.

"There will be some disappointment among those who are not able to attend," Mr Ottaway said.

Veteran Ron Mayhill, 88, told the East & Bays Courier that the trip was exciting, and something the World War II veterans had not expected.

"Everybody's looking forward to it very, very much. It's been a long time coming. We've never had official recognition. It'll be quite an emotional journey," he said.

Bomber Command crews, who braved anti-aircraft fire and fighter aircraft to bomb German targets, had the highest Allied casualty rate of World War II, with 55,593 men killed, including 1851 Kiwis.

Another veteran, Frank Prebble, said it was important to remember the men who did not come home.

"When you stand at that memorial and think of all those guys that have gone, I think that will be an important moment," Mr Prebble said.

The 70-metre-long memorial, featuring a 2.7m bronze sculpture of a seven-man bomber crew, will stand in London's Green Park.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf01 at 23 Dec 2014 16:48:26 Processing Time: 560ms