Hunts Wartime hero fights for bomber crew medals

THIS man – and his colleagues who survived World War II – deserves a medal. Harold Ruston, 86, from Houghton, served with the Bomber Command aircrew – men who were all volunteers. Nearly half (55,000) of the 125,000 volunteers were killed on their mission

THIS man - and his colleagues who survived World War II - deserves a medal.

Harold Ruston, 86, from Houghton, served with the Bomber Command aircrew - men who were all volunteers.

Nearly half (55,000) of the 125,000 volunteers were killed on their missions, but despite their sacrifice, they have never been received a campaign medal which recognised their bravery.

In July 1944, the 21-year-old Flying Officer Ruston was shot down over France, captured by the Germans and held prisoner until the end of the war in Stalag Luft 1.

While help prisoner he says he was told by officers to carry on digging tunnelsto keep the Germans occupied looking for them. But he was warned not to try to escape because 50 men had just been shot trying to escape from Stalag Luft 3.

Sixty-five years on, Mr Ruston says it is "amazing" that he has been honoured on three occasions by the French, but not by the British.

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Last month, for the third time, he and his son Nicholas and daughter Annie were invited to Bassevelle in northern France. The population of 300 honoured the two surviving crew of the Lancaster bomber that flew out 65-years-ago ago to raid the railway junction in Revigny.

They were shot down at around 1am on July 19.

Four of the crew of seven managed to bail out. One died when his parachute failed to open, two who managed to land and were hidden by the French resistance but Mr Ruston was captured.

The four dead were buried in Basseville where in the 1990s townspeople started to trace the survivors and the relatives.

Mr Ruston, with Sergeant Leonard Manning from Suffolk, and Frederick Taylor, from Southampton, were invited to the 50th anniversary.

Mr Ruston was unable to go that year, but attended the 60th commemoration with his wife, Pat.

This year only Mr Ruston and Mr Manning survived to be invited to the 65th anniversary which took place last month.

They were presented with medals, a bronze carrying the names of all seven of their crew, and each with a personalised, commemorative book, describing how the village had traced them.

The day included a remembrance service, the unveiling of a plaque at the crash site, a celebration lunch in a marquee and entertainment into the evening.

"As each wreath was laid on the graves, the mayor of the district said in French: "He died for France," said Mr Ruston, a retired Huntingdon businessman (the family firm is Ruston's Engineering in Brampton Road).

He has written both to The Queen and to the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, asking for a medal finally to be issued for the members of Bomber Command.

His Lancaster flew out of East Kirkby in Lincolnshire.

He added: "While the Bevin Boys, Land Army Girls and the code breakers have all received recognition, Bomber Command has received no campaign medal.

"No other force lost 55,000 out of 125,000 who operated, to say nothing of the wounded and those who became prisoners of war.

"An Air Crew Europe medal was awarded but only to those who served before D-Day, June 6, 1944.

"This was replaced by the France and Germany Star - but even the pay clerks got that."

In May 1945, Stalag Luft 1, at Barth in the Baltic was liberated by the Russians after the prisoners refused to leave there with the Germans.

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