HERO veteran Laurie Davis risked his life for his country 12 times, flying in raids over Germany that were crucial to winning the Second World War.
Around half of his comrades never returned home from the night-time raids.
But 88-year-old Mr Davis, who was just 20 when he joined RAF Bomber Command as a wireless operator, has had to wait almost 70 years for his gallantry to be officially recognised.
After a long struggle, Mr Davis will finally received his Bomber Command clasp, which he can wear with pride attached to his 1939 to 1945 campaign ribbon.
Until this year, the 125,000 men who made up Bomber Command received no official thanks for their heroism during the Second World War.
As a further insult to Mr Davis, he had to write several letters to the government’s medal office to get his clasp after they initially said he would not qualify.
Mr Davis, a grandfather-of-seven and great-grandfather-of-three, of Blount Road, Old Portsmouth, told The News: ‘It’s an honour to get it for all those who are not able to be here, but frustrating for the years that it has taken.
‘For the past six months I have had to wrangle with the ministry, having had three letters to say I would not qualify.’
Mr Davis’ initial application form met all the criteria – namely to have served between 1939 and May 1945, been in a Bomber Squadron and done at least one operation. But there was confusion over whether Mr Davis had served 120 days – which in fact he had – and this caused a further delay.
Mr Davis, a former inspector in the old City of Portsmouth police force, was eventually sent his clasp in the post.
Much like the Arctic Convoy veterans, Mr Davis said politics had got in the way of Bomber Command’s efforts being recognised.
A total of 55,573 of its airmen died and their average age was 22.
Mr Davis said: ‘They just sent it and said they hope I will wear it with great pride – which I will do, because unlike me, so many did not make it.’
Mr Davis’ military career started young when he joined the Portsmouth Air Training Squadron, 1190, in 1940 at the age of 16.
On January 10, 1941, his family’s house in Fratton was flattened by a bomb.
‘I was firewatching with my father outside of our house in King Albert Street,’ explained Mr Davis.
‘In the night of the Portsmouth raid we had our house demolished with a bomb in the back garden. My dad and I were covered in dust. We lost everything.’
Mr Davis later joined the RAF in 1943 and learnt Morse code. His role on the raids was to receive the signals.
Last year, he was one of just five Bomber Command veterans who marched in Remembrance Day parades at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London.
‘Many paid the ultimate sacrifice,’ he said.
‘I feel very lucky to be here. The phrase was “it was never you”. You knew somebody from the 19 planes that went out every night would not come back.’
Mr Davis will be officially presented with his Bomber Command clasp by the RAF at the Royal Marines Association Club in Eastney tonight.
Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock said: ‘These heroes who flew in these missions where half the men were killed have had to wait more than 60 years for recognition.
‘It’s not right and it’s not fair. I’m delighted he’s got it now.
‘It’s splendid news for him and his family who will be most proud of him.
‘They were flying in state-of-the-art planes at the time, but I don’t think any of us would relish flying on these missions into enemy territory and being attacked by anti-aircraft guns.
‘They were exceptionally brave men.’