Medals come home

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By ELESHA ED­MONDS

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.

held

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Pho­tos: PETER MEECHAM

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.

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