A RAF veteran has been surprised with the presentation of his long-awaited Bomber Command clasp on his 89th birthday.
David Cameron today hailed the first recipients of the Arctic Star medal as a "group of heroes", as he presented them with the new award.
I am an RAF child who grew up with 'V bombers' at the bottom of the garden, they were the fighting machines of post-war Bomber Command
At 19-years-old, Flight Lieutenant Harry Hooper, became one of the youngest airmen to fly in the Bomber Command as part of daring raids in Germany during WW2.
Today, on his 89th birthday - more than six decades after the war ended - he was surprised with the presentation of his long-awaited Bomber Command clasp at its war memorial in London's Hyde Park.
ITV News Correspondent Neil Connery reports:
The leading figure behind the campaign to award the Arctic Star medal has had his award presented at a special ceremony because he was too ill to travel to the main ceremony in London.
Commander Eddie Grenfell, 93, has lobbied for 16 years for the medal to be created and was the first veteran to receive the star.
After the decision was made last December to award the star, the Government was urged to act quickly because of the advancing age and ill-health of Cdr Grenfell as well as other veterans.
Cdr Grenfell was only released from hospital three weeks ago where he had been since last October.
He has suffered a heart attack and two cardiac arrests but managed to build up enough strength to attend today's ceremony.
The Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David Richards attended the special event at the Mayor's Parlour at Portsmouth Guildhall, Hampshire, to award Cdr Grenfell.
Sir David said: "It's a very, very special day for all of us in the armed forces but especially for a small group who are still with us who did some very special things way back in the Second World War.
"We are here to celebrate the extraordinary bravery and fortitude of that very special group of men."
He continued: "It's hard to comprehend what you and your comrades did battling against an enemy intent on your destruction.
"It's thoroughly humbling and we are all in awe of what you achieved."
David Cameron today hailed the first recipients of the Arctic Star medal as a "group of heroes", as he presented them with the newly-created award.
Hosting a special ceremony at Number 10 Downing Street, Cameron said: "I can't think of a prouder day that I have had in this job or a group of people I am more honoured to share it with."
The creation of the Arctic Star medal, along with the new Bomber Command Clasp, were announced by Mr Cameron in December, 67 years after the war, following a long-running campaign.
The move followed recommendations of a review of military decorations by former diplomat Sir John Holmes.
David Cameron today visited HMS Belfast with three Arctic Convoy veterans.
They gave him a tour around the vessel, showing him where ice was cleared from the deck in perilous circumstances.
Mr Cameron said: "They are heroes and I think it's just so right that we are honouring them today for their incredible service 70 years ago, and I'm really proud as Prime Minister to have set up that review, to make that decision and to get them that medal they so richly deserve.
Today the first Arctic Star medals and Bomber Command Clasps will be presented to veterans by the Prime Minister.
- Veterans undertook what was dubbed "the worst journey in the world", delivering supplies to Russia
- More than 3,000 seamen died on the journey, which made sure Germany had to fight a war on two fronts
- The seamen delivered ships which carried crucial supplies, including 13,000 tanks, 22,000 aircraft and 417,000 motor vehicles
- Some 58 of the 811 merchant ships involved were sunk by German U-boats, battleships and Luftwaffe bombers
- With freezing temperatures of minus 20 degrees, anyone who fell into the water died within three minutes
- The men covered a 1,500 to 2,000-mile run across the North and Barents Seas, one of the deadliest convoy routes during the war
Prime Minister David Cameron will present the first Arctic Star medals and Bomber Command Clasps at Downing Street today.
Up to 250,000 veterans, and the families of those who died, are eligible to receive the new awards.
It comes after David Cameron's announcement in December that he was accepting the recommendations of a review of military decorations.
The Government has announced that Second World War veterans who served on the Arctic Convoys and in the Bomber Command will begin receiving new awards "within weeks".
Eligible veterans and next of kin can apply for the Arctic Star medal or Bomber Command clasp by completing an application form which can be found on the Veterans UK website.
– Mark Francois, Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans
All those who served our country in Bomber Command and on the Arctic Convoys deserve nothing but the utmost respect and admiration.
"That’s why I am delighted that these special individuals will in the next few weeks begin to receive the Bomber Command clasp and Arctic Star that they have so long deserved.
“I am also pleased to announce that the families of those no longer alive will also be able to apply for these awards in recognition of their loved one’s bravery.”