Veteran finally gets his war medals – on his 100th birthday

Le�n Filary and daughter Cristina Bergman's arrival at the party
Le�n Filary and daughter Cristina Bergman's arrival at the party

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HE was 32 years old when the Second World War came to an end.

But ex-serviceman Leon Filary, who served in the Battle of Britain, would wait until his 100th birthday to receive his first war medal.

But ex-serviceman Leon Filary, who served in the Battle of Britain, would wait until his 100th birthday to receive his first war medal.

Receiving much more than a surprise cake as he reached his centenary, Mr Filary was awarded six campaign medals.

He had previously had no idea he was entitled to them until his family dug up some old belongings.

Mr Filary, of Bedhampton Way, Havant, who worked at Portsmouth Dockyard for much of his life, was presented with the medals during a day out at Tangmere Aviation Museum, near Chichester.

His family organised the medal ceremony as a surprise.

‘It was a perfect day,’ said Mr Filary, who was born in Poland but escaped when the Nazis invaded.

‘It was wonderful to see the aircraft I used to work on and Tangmere museum were very kind.

‘I am very, very happy I’ve finally got my medals.

‘It’s been a wonderful time.’

Mr Filary was born in West Poland and later joined the air regiment.

After Poland fell to Germany, he travelled throughout Europe, eventually ending up in England.

A highly-skilled mechanic, he was seconded to be the personal mechanic to a squadron leader throughout the Battle of Britain, maintaining Spitfire and Hurricane engines in London.

Several decades later his daughter, Cristina Bergman, dug up some of his old belongings and discovered he was in fact due six campaign medals for his services during the war – two for Poland and four for Britain.

The medals include the Air Crew Europe Star and the 1939-45 Star.

Mr Filary’s son, Steve Filary, said: ‘We wanted to surprise him in a kind of This Is Your Life way.

‘It was a pretty amazing day.’

Dudley Hooley, museum director, said he was overwhelmed to present the medals.

He said: ‘It’s not often in one’s life you get to do something as moving and rewarding as meeting such a wonderful man.’

Mr Filary was honoured yesterday by the Polish ambassador for his commitment and received the Polish eagle crest at the family’s shop, Filarinskis, in Bosham.