Pilot honours row: ‘They laid down their lives so that others might live’

A plaque at St Edith's Church, Little Grimsby, recognises their sacrifice.
A plaque at St Edith's Church, Little Grimsby, recognises their sacrifice.

A man has slammed the Ministry of Defence (MOD) after they rejected his suggestion to give posthumous honours to two pilots who sacrificed themselves to save two local villages in World War Two.

Tim Arnold submitted a request to the MOD’s Defence People Secretariat to suggest that Canadian pilot Flying Officer Lloyd Hannah, and Flight Sergeant Lloyd Douglas Bennet, should receive honours for steering their stricken Lancaster bomber away from Fotherby and Little Grimsby in October 1944, crashing into a field and sacrificing their lives.

In a response letter, the Defence People Secretariat said that awards are ‘generally not approved’ for service that took place in the past, as it is not necessarily known whether the individual was recommended or assessed for honours at the time.

The letter added: “It should be remembered that, during World War Two, there were likely more recommendations for awards than would have been considered appropriate to make. This means that, unfair though it may seem, individual acts of gallantry would be judged against each other to assess which was the most deserving of recognition.”

Mr Arnold, who lives near Grantham, was not happy with the response from the MOD, which he said ‘undermines’ the honours system.

He told the Leader: “This craven decision undermines the very fabric of the honours system. It shows that awards are not based on worth or justice, but on whether your face fits with the government of the day. And do not expect a future government to put things right. Shameful.

“The nation hands out honours to anonymous civil servants and failed politicians like confetti. Yet apparently they are worth more than people who laid down their lives so that others might live.

“The pilot was Canadian; the racism of the 1940s, which was common currency at that time, may have had an effect on the decision not to honour him. But, governments make mistakes. Civil servants should be prepared to right historic wrongs. But it’s too much trouble. Shameful.”

In a statement, a Ministry of Defence spokesperson told the Leader: “We are grateful for the service and bravery shown by both Flying Officer Hannah and Flight Sergeant Bennet.

“Awards are not generally approved for events or service that occurred a long time ago as those involved and closest to the events are best able to judge the appropriateness of honours and decorations.”