Northern Ireland

WW2 Bomber Command veteran Martin Charters honoured

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Media captionMartin Charters was presented with a Bomber Command clasp to wear on the ribbon of his war medal

A 93-year-old County Down man who survived more than 40 World War Two bombing missions is being honoured at a ceremony in his hometown.

Killyleagh man Martin Charters was an RAF air gunner, flying in Halifax and Lancaster bombers.

He is being presented at Down District Council with a Bomber Command clasp to wear on the ribbon of his war medal.

"It's a recognition you've done something and it's appreciated," he says.

More than 55,000 Bomber Command crew were killed in the war - more than the entire number of service men and women in the present day RAF.

Seventy years on, Mr Charters still has vivid memories of bombing raids over Germany.

"When we did the Ruhr valley, there were as many as 800 bombers going in, and it was very tough," he says.

"The Germans would throw everything up there but the kitchen sink.

"They'd send up these things called 'scarecrows' which would explode and light the countryside up.

"And then there were these small aeroplanes that would get into the bomber stream and explode."

Image caption Martin Charters pictured in his RAF uniform during World War Two

Mr Charters' crew was one of two picked for special operations that involved flying very low to avoid detection on the way to the target.

"We went over the North Sea about 20 feet - you could feel the water coming up," he says.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Charters flew a Lancaster Bomber during World War Two

Mr Charters says one of the biggest challenges he faced was from German night fighters, who would wait until the bombers were on their way home and had their guard down.

"There was a twin-engine plane that had its guns at 45 degrees, so they could get underneath you and shoot upwards," he says.

One of the biggest operations he took part in was the Thousand Bomber raid, where planes were sent en masse to bomb the city of Cologne.

"We were first in and as we looked back as it was getting dark, it was lovely to see all those bombers behind us," he says.

Image caption Mr Charters says his crew were close friends

While each crew was a close-knit family, he says that forming other relationships proved difficult.

"It was very hard for an air crew fella to strike up a relationship with a girl - they didn't want to bother with you, because of the risk you'd go out and not come back," he says.

"At Nuremberg in February 1944, 92 were shot down - I lost a lot of friends."

He says the Bomber Command clasp for his 1939-45 Star medal is an acknowledgement of what he and his colleagues did during WW2, and he is proud of his service.

"I wouldn't do it again," he adds.

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