Medals come home
LES MUNRO, the only surviving pilot from the Dam Buster raids, presented his medals to New Zealand in a special ceremony at Motat on April 15.
The 96-year-old intended to put the medals up for auction to fund the upkeep of the Bomber Command memorial in London’s Green Park.
But British businessman Lord Ashcroft made a donation to the RAF Benevolent Fund in March, in return for Munro withdrawing his medals from auction and giving them to the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland.
That presentation took place at the museum’s Aviation Display Hall where the veteran squadron leader’s medals, flight logbooks and associated memorabilia will be kept.
Those in attendance included Ashcroft, Prime Minister John Key, members of the RAF Bomber Command and Kevin Lynch, the British Consul General.
The ceremony took place under an illuminated Lancaster bomber which was used by the RAF in World War II.
It was a fitting location for the medals to be kept because Munro piloted a Lancaster during the World War II raids in May 1943.
‘‘I flew all but one of my operations in a Lancaster,’’ Munro says.
‘‘So I am comforted by the thought my medals will be situated within proximity of the plane.
‘‘I appreciate very much indeed they will have some relationship.’’
Ashcroft presented Munro with the medals at Wednesday’s ceremony, after personally collecting them from a London auction house and delivering them to New Zealand.
In his speech, he talked of his personal involvement with returning the medals to Munro.
‘‘I’m sorry if I sound a little emotional. I am a hard-headed businessman but this is my passion.’’
Key acknowledged Ashcroft, call- ing him a ‘‘true unsung hero of New Zealand’’. ‘‘Without that donation I don’t think there would have been any chance the medals would have stayed in New Zealand,’’ Key says.
Munro was also among eight New Zealand veterans awarded the French Legion of Honour by the Ambassador of France to New Zealand.
That ceremony was Devonport on April 14.
From left: Lord Ashcroft, Prime Minister John Key, Les Munro and Motat chief executive Michael Frawley in front of the World War II Lancaster Bomber following the handing over of Les Munro’s war medals on Wednesday. Right, Les Munro, the only surviving pilot from the Dam Buster raids, during the presentation of his war medals to Motat on Wednesday.