THE family of a former Second World War airmen from Hartlepool who was lost at sea exactly 70 years ago has been awarded a posthumous honour.
Lancaster Bomber navigator Sergeant John Beaumont Bell is believed to have perished in the Baltic Sea in 1944.
John, known as Jack, was just 23 years-old when he perished 70 years ago last night,
He was part of the vital war effort to protect transport routes from the Allies to boost the campaign at the Russian Front.
He was part of the operation to lay mines in the Baltic Sea aimed at destroying preying German warships and U-boats.
Now, on the anniversary of him going missing, John’s family have received the Bomber Command clasp in recognition of his service.
Sgt Bell was born and raised in Hartlepool and joined the RAF at the outset of the war.
He was assigned to 662 Squadron in Mildenhall, in Suffolk, but did much of his training with the Service Flying Training School in Canada.
Sgt Bell was reported missing on the night of September 11-12 in 1944.
He and his crew set off in the Lancaster LM511 to lay mines in the Baltic Sea but nothing more was heard from the aircraft.
It was presumed the aeroplane crashed into the sea with the loss of all crew.
Sgt Bell’s sister, Elizabeth Cook, who now lives in Derbyshire, was thrilled to receive the clasp.
Mrs Cook said: “His loss was devastating at such a young age, but it is marvellous that his tremendous efforts have at last been recognised as part of the Bomber Command contingent.”
Veterans and their surviving families were invited to apply for the Bomber Command clasp after it was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Those eligible for the Bomber Command clasp had previously qualified for the 1939 to 1945 Star, to which the clasp is affixed.
There was an additional requirement to have flown at least one operational sortie as aircrew on a Bomber Command operational unit.
Mark Francois, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, said: “All those who served our country in Bomber Command and on the Arctic convoys deserve nothing but the utmost respect and admiration from us. That’s why I am delighted that these special individuals will receive the Bomber Command clasp and that they have so long deserved.
“I am also pleased that the families of those no longer alive will also be able to apply for these awards in recognition of their loved ones’ bravery.”
Details and an application form to apply for the Bomber Command clasp can be found at www.veterans-uk.info or by calling 08457 800900.