World War Two veteran claims his medals after 73 years - and discovers he is owed another

Warrant Officer George Verden flew 49 operations in his RAF career.
Warrant Officer George Verden flew 49 operations in his RAF career.

A Northampton World War Two veteran has been awarded his service medals after 73 years.

George Verden, 94, flew 49 missions in his RAF career and took part in crucial bombing operations on D-Day, earning him two medals.

The medals and the long-lost slip of paper proving Mr Verden's claim

The medals and the long-lost slip of paper proving Mr Verden's claim

But when the war was over, he found he had lost the slip of paper proving his valour.

Mr Verden said: "This slip was the only proof I had. But I couldn't find it all."

It would be over 70 years before George would get his medals. But then he discovered he can claim a third - and very exclusive - third medal.

He joined the RAF in 1941 when he was 18-years-old.

The slip of paper, dated June 20, 1944, entitling George to his medals.

The slip of paper, dated June 20, 1944, entitling George to his medals.

"I couldn't swim, so I didn't join the navy. But I had wanted to fly since I was a youngster, so I volunteered for the Royal Air Force.

"I was a wireless operator air gunner," said George. "I had to crawl across the bomb boy to use the radio, then crawl back again to man my machine-gun in the tail of the plane.

"Your life expectancy in bomber command back then was four trips. Then you were on borrowed time. We lost more air crew than any other force, and for every 1,000 bombers you sent up you lost 100."

By D-Day, the start of the allied campaign to retake Normandy and bring the war to an end, George had flown 22 operations.

The Air Crew Europe Star, left, and the France & Germany Star, right. George has been owed them for 73 years.

The Air Crew Europe Star, left, and the France & Germany Star, right. George has been owed them for 73 years.

He and his crew were tasked with bombing runs to secure a key strategic point known as Pegasus Bridge, in Caen, France.

"D-Day was alright," George said. "Everyone was frightened, but as you got closer to the coast you realised you had a job to do. So you did it and then you flew back home.

"Sometimes we came home with bullet holes in the kite [plane]. On the worst occasion, a flak shell exploded underneath us and lifted us all into the air. Thankfully, no one was hurt."

Twenty days into the D-Day campaign, Warrant Officer George Verden was given a slip of paper by a commanding officer. He had earned two medals for his service: the Air Crew Europe Star, for flying over occupied Europe, and the France & Germany Star, for subjects of the British Commonwealth who served in the Second World War.

But when the war ended and Mr Verden returned home, he could not find his slip of paper.

He would not see it again for 73 years.

He said: "It's been preying on my mind for all these years. Now I'm getting older, I thought I would have one last go at finding it.

"And then, in December 2016, there it was, in amongst all my old service kit. And when I saw it, I thought, 'I'll have you.'"

Mr Verden contacted his MP Michael Ellis and asked for his help.

Michael Ellis, MP for Northampton North, said: "George had this slip of paper, no bigger than a receipt from a supermarket, that proved he was owed these medals. It took some work but my team and I were very keen to help. We spoke to the Ministry of Defence and the Medals office. With some research, we showed he was entitled to his medals.

"But what is even more incredible is that we found George could, if he wanted to, claim a third medal - the Legion d'Honneur, or the Legion of Honour, France's highest order for military and civil merits."

Mr Verden has now claimed his two long-awaited medals.

He said: "I'm lucky to get them. The slip was in my kit book the entire time, along with a fabric map that went with me on every air raid. I'm so pleased to have them at last.

"I would never have got them if not for my MP, Michael Ellis, and I 'm so grateful to him."

Michael Ellis said: "I'm absolutely thrilled. He;s clearly a hero and someone who served his country so very well throughout his life to achieve these medals.

"He may well have received them this week but he's deserved them all these years. I want to thank him for his service."