A Second World War veteran who was the guest of honour at a special Lancaster flypast in Lincoln after losing his treasured war medals has died.
Warrant Officer Donald Nicholson, 93, was among last surviving crew members at the unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial Spire on Canwick Hill, but realised on his return he had lost priceless medals.
Over 80 volunteers scoured the site of the International Bomber Command Centre, and luckily his medals were found at a police station close to his home in Tyne and Wear, 100 miles north of Lincoln.
After he was reunited with his medals, Donald was the guest of honour at a special ceremony in Lincoln, celebrating the return of the Lancaster Bomber to Lincolnshire’s skies.
Donald flew 31 operations whilst serving on 44 Sqn as a flight engineer.
His Lancaster was shot down and Donald’s crew were killed. He had been unable to find the graves of any of them, except the pilot, in Germany.
He was finally able to mark their passing when he placed poppies at the IBCC Memorial, something he said gave him great comfort and enabled him to close that chapter of his story.
Tributes have been pouring in for the honoured veteran. The International Bomber Command Centre has released the following statement:
“We had the great pleasure of getting to know Donald a little and will remember with great fondness his incredible sense of humour.
“Thus far in 2016 at least 25 veterans have died. These men were members of a rapidly diminishing group of WW2 heroes who faced unimaginable terrors and hardships whilst serving with Bomber Command.
“Of the 500,000 men who served as air and ground crews in the unit, less than 1,500 survive worldwide. Their ages range from 91 to 102 and, unsurprisingly, their rate of passing increases as each year goes by.”
The IBCC is continuing its mission to preserve experiences and stories of crew, with 235 interviews recorded and over 26,000 items digitised including photographs, letters and diaries.
The items will be housed in a special learning facility and attraction, the Chadwick Centre.
The project still needs to raise £3.8 million to complete the centre and has launched a special fundraising campaign which has received backing from celebrities including Dan Snow, Carol Vorderman, Dame Judi Dench and John Sergeant.
Donations can be made on the International Bomber Command Centre’s website or via text to 70070 followed by IBCC01 and the amount you wish to donate.
Cheque donations should be forwarded to: The International Bomber Command Centre, 13 Cherry Holt Road, Bourne, Lincolnshire PE10 9LA.