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Heroic veteran given honour he deserves
HE risked his life in some of the most important battles in the Second World War.
But despite surviving enemy fire and helping British troops during the D-Day landings, Leslie Valentine missed out on the medal he deserved.
Now, nearly 70 years later, the 94-year-old has been finally been presented with his Defence Medal by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Mr Valentine, of Hethe, near Bicester, was given VIP treatment in London including a chauffeured limousine ride, a visit to the Bomber Command Memorial and a tour of Number 10.
He originally missed out receiving the medal for his service with the Highland Light Infantry because he volunteered for the Royal Air Force and went off for training.
The Government acted after the oversight was highlighted during a radio interview.
Mr Valentine was also presented with the Veteran’s Badge by Veterans’ Minister Mark Francois.
The widowed father-of-two, a former national sales manager in the pharmaceutical industry, said: “It was a great surprise. David Cameron was very good and easy to talk to.
“The medal was something I was entitled to but didn’t claim it, so that was a bonus.”
Mr Valentine’s military career began in 1939, serving first as an infantryman in France, before getting his pilot ‘wings’ He was then shipped to RAF Bicester for active service training with 13 Operational Training Unit.
Flying Officer Valentine was posted to 88 Sqdn, 2nd Tactical Air Force, Bomber Command, who aimed to disrupt supply lines.
He flew a Douglas Boston IIIA, a tricycle under-carriaged light bomber. Planes worked in close formation against targets such as road bridges, rail marshalling yards, road transport convoys, submarine pens and V1 rocket launching sites.
Mr Valentine recalled one mission where he was second in the formation and the leader took a direct hit.
He said: “Flack from the plane hit my engine and the navigator was injured.
“I had to come back with one engine.
“I needed the navigator to get home and was instructing him how to put on a tourniquet with a handkerchief and pencil to stop the blood flowing.”
Another dangerous mission was the D-Day Landings, where Mr Valentine had to lay smoke over the beaches to protect invading UK forces.
Under fire he took his Boston ‘E-Easy’ down to 50 feet. Two aircraft were lost in the mission, but Mr Valentine returned safely to his base at RAF Hartford Bridge.
Mr Valentine’s wife Vera, who he was married to for 73 years, died last November.
His son Dudley, 70, who also served with Bomber Command in the early 1960s, and accompanied his father, said: “It was a fabulous day, he deserved every bit.”
Mr Cameron said: “I was honoured to meet Mr Valentine and it was with great pleasure that I presented him with the Defence Medal.
“He is an extraordinary man. Mr Valentine’s bravery, flying 50ft above the beaches on D-Day to provide a smoke-screen to the invasion force, was extraordinary.”
Mr Valentine was also awarded the Criox de Guerre with Silver Star by France for his valour and bravery in the country’s liberation.