Wednesday, March 26, 2014
A Second World War veteran has received his war medals almost 70 years after the conflict.
Jim Chapman, of Holmewood, Holme, was presented with the Defence Medal, the 1939-1945 Star, the Africa Star and the War Medal, as well as his veteran’s badge at RAF Wyton yesterday (Tuesday) by Group Captain John Rolf.
He was helped by his neighbour Stan Kaye who, when he discovered Mr Chapman did not have any medals, worked to get the former lance corporal in the RAF the recognition his service deserved.
Mr Chapman, 93, who was born in Great Gidding, said he had not claimed his medals because he was still abroad when others were requesting their decorations.
“I’m over the moon to have received my medals,” he said. “It’s all down to Stan why I have received them now.”
Mr Chapman joined the RAF in 1939, signing up before his 20th birthday. If he has waited until after his birthday, he could have been sent to any service and, as he couldn’t swim, he said he wanted to avoid the navy.
He spent six weeks training in Blackpool and, after a fortnight at home, moved to Topcliffe, Yorkshire. While at Topcliffe, Mr Chapman was given 48 hours leave to marry his sweetheart, Bettie, who he had known for a number of years.
In 1942, after two years in Yorkshire, Mr Chapman boarded the Viceroy of India, sailing from Liverpool to Egypt via South Africa.
On this journey, the convoy was attacked by a submarine, which was destroyed by the escorting small warships called corvettes.
Eventually, Mr Chapman arrived at the 101 MU ammunition and bomb distribution camp at RAF Tura, where he helped transport bombs from a secret storage facility to RAF airfields.
Towards the end of his spell in Egypt, Mr Chapman was posted to Cairo. “I was ordered to the military airfield to pick up a VIP called Group Captain Leonard Cheshire,” he said. “He gave me the Daily Mirror. I took him to the Shepherd’s Hotel in Cairo, which was the equivalent of a Hilton.
“I drove him to a sporting club, where he invited me into the officers’ section. I said I couldn’t, but he told me that as long as I was with him, no one would say anything. I also took him to the pyramids.
“At the end of his stay I took him to the airport and asked him if he was going back to England. He told me no, but said he couldn’t tell me where he was going. But he added: ‘You boys will not be here much longer’.”
Shortly afterwards, Grp Capt Cheshire was in the nose of an American B29 bomber as the British observer to witness the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.
“He was true to his word,” said Mr Chapman. “We were promised two bottles of beer to celebrate the end of the war, but the NAAFI [army store] had run out. We threatened to get in the officers’ mess so they quickly got us beer.”
After the war, Mr Chapman returned to working as a huntsman in Lincolnshire until he retired and moved back to Huntingdonshire.