Bomber Command Veterans and Chris Keltie meet PM David Cameron on Wed 9 Oct 2013.

29/10/2013 Posted by chris

Hi everybody,

On Wednesday 9 October 2013 a group of Bomber Command Veterans travelled from all over the country to meet British Prime Minister the Rt Hon David Cameron. The purpose of the visit was to thank him in person for his hard work to gain recognition for WW2 Veterans. This included wiping the debt for the VAT on Bomber Command Memorial in London, the award of the Gold Clasp to Bomber Command Veterans past and present, and the Arctic Star Medal for the Veterans of the Arctic Convoys.

Our group included four of the Veterans featured in the book: Jeff Gray (61 Squ), and his granddaughter Charlotte Gray. Bill’s Mid-Upper Gunner Dennis Bartlett (61 Squ). James Flowers (50 Squ, Rear Gunner and representing the 50/61 Squadron Association) with his two sons Phil and Robert Flowers. Representing their father, Veteran Bill North who passed on in Dec 2011, were his three sons David, Alun and Rhys North. Percy Cannings (97 Squ PFF) was due to come, but was unable to as he was unwell. Representing Percy was his daughter Sandy Cannings.

Sandy Cannings and James Flowers were interviewed live on air at 08:50 by Scott Dalton on his Morning Show on BBC Radio Lincolshire.

The idea to contact David Cameron came from F/Lt Jeff Gray who is a Veteran Lancaster pilot from 61 Squadron and featured in the book Riding In The Shadow Of Death. He suggested we both write to Downing Street and offer to present David Cameron a copy of the book as a thank you on behalf of  the Veterans. After a challenging task to organise and arrange the travel arrangements and timing of the event, we all made it to the Central Lobby on time. Although Sandy Cannings and I had a serious moment of panic at the front gate when we couldn’t find our Veterans anywhere, they had already gone in without us!

Our group at the Central Lobby Cafe, about to 'go upstairs'.

Left to right:- Charlotte Gray, Chris Keltie, Rhys North, Alun North, Sandy Cannings, Dennis Bartlett, Phil Flowers, James Flowers, David North, Robert Flowers and Jeff Gray. (photo, James Flowers)

We were then met in the Central Lobby (which is stunning) by the PM’s assistants Julia and Lawrence. With two of our Veterans in wheelchairs we then had to take quite a long detour around the Commons network of long corridors to the PM’s office. James Flowers kept us entertained on the way with his distinctive Yorkshire accent. ‘That was Lord so and so, oh look there’s this MP or that MP.’ At various points along the way we could see David Cameron on the in-house TV screens getting a ‘grilling’ on Prime Minister’s Question Time.

James Flowers keeping the 'North boys' entertained in Central Lobby.

Chris Keltie and Alun North, 'on the way up!'

We finally made it up to the reception area outside the PM’s office where we all paused for breath and gathered our thoughts.

'Pausing for breath'.

Dennis Bartlett,'holding on tight' to Sandy Cannings. Never seen him so happy!

David Cameron suddenly appeared, greeted us all, shook everybody’s hands and led us into his office where we sat down on armchairs and sofas. The meeting was very relaxed and everybody had a chance to chat and talk.

Our group chatting with the PM. (Official Downing Street photo)

The Veterans thanked him for his work gaining recognition for them and he explained the complex and difficult process he had gone through to push through the Gold Clasp award and the Arctic Star Medal.

Chris Keltie presents the book 'Riding In The Shadow Of Death' to British Prime Minister David Cameron. Wed 9 Oct 2013. (Official Downing Street photo)

I presented him with a copy of the book and he joked that ‘it was his birthday and this was the first present of the day!’ Then to our surprise James Flowers then piped up that it was also his birthday as well and he was 89, there’s a great official picture of them shaking hands.

Chris Keltie and the Bomber Command Veterans signing the book for David Cameron. (Official Downing Street photo)

David Cameron and James Flowers shake hands on their shared birthday. (Official Downing Street Photo)

James then took the opportunity to mention that Bill North had received no medal for his courage and bravery when he crash landed his Lancaster on 5 July 1944. I also highlighted the extraordinary circumstances surrounding Bill’s crash and the whole crew’s survival that night. Sandy Cannings then read out her father Percy Cannings’ speech explaining how Percy also thought that Bill had been overlooked for a medal for his outstanding skill and courage as well. The PM took Percy’s speech and was very sympathetic explaining that it was very difficult to get medals after such a long period of time, but he would look into it and to leave it with him. As David Cameron sat amongst us we found that he was very down to earth and easy to talk to. He was extremely knowledgeable about Bomber Command and it’s critical contribution to shortening WW2. He also suggested reading a book by Andrew Roberts, called The Storm Of War; ‘It has an excellent chapter on Bomber Command.’ We were told it would be a very short meeting, but to everybody’s surprise we  actually got over 20 minutes of the PM’s time. As it came to a natural end the PM then got up and shook everybody’s hand again and said goodbye. Our convoy then made its way back downstairs to the front entrance.

Back downstairs again. Left to right, Charlotte Gray, Jeff Gray, Chris Keltie, Dennis Bartlett and James Flowers.

Our two Lancaster Bomber Gunners share a joke about the Police Machine Guns. Mid-Upper Gunner , Dennis Bartlett (61 Squ) and Rear Gunner, James Flowers (50 Squ).


We then got a fleet of London Taxis to take us from Parliament Square to the RAF Club at Piccadilly, where Bill’s sons had booked a fantastic lunch for us all. We also met up with the book’s editor Brandon Robshaw who joined us at the RAF Club. Brandon played a critical role in the editing process and I would like to thank him for being so brutal with the script, it wouldn’t be what it is without him.

Lunch at the RAF Club. James Flowers showing Sandy Cannings his Facebook page!

At the RAF Club. Our Lancaster Veterans, Dennis Bartlett, James Flowers and Jeff Gray


James Flowers, Sandy Cannings and Chris Keltie at the RAF Club by painting of Lancaster Bomber on the Peenemünde raid 17/18 Aug 1943.


After lunch at the RAF Club Sandy and I were interviewed at 4.30pm by BBC Radio Lincolnshire’s William Wright on his Drivetime Show.

Looking South across Piccadilly from the RAF Club rests the Bomber Command Memorial. Sandy and I went to pay our respects to our lost aircrews after lunch. It was a perfect finish to a special day with very special memories.

Looking West down Piccadilly towards Hyde Park Corner and South over Green Park lies the Bomber Command Memorial.

Chris Keltie and Sandy Cannings, Wed 9 October 2013 at the Bomber Command Memorial.


On behalf of the whole group I would like to thank David Cameron for meeting with us. It was a special day for our Bomber Command Veterans and they were extremely appreciative of their Gold Clasp award and the recognition they truly deserve. The look on their faces said it all. Also a big thank you to our chaperone’s Julia and Lawrence. Jennifer Snell for helping me to organise the meeting and all the staff in the Central Lobby who were so kind and assisted with the wheelchairs. A big thanks to David, Alun and Rhys for a wonderful lunch and also all the London Taxi drivers who ferried us around London that day. Much missed was Percy Cannings who couldn’t be with us, get well soon Percy.

Please don’t forget to send in your memories of service with Bomber Command to the Lincolnshire Bomber Command Memorial:-

Look out for the next update coming soon:- Symbol of Defiance to become Symbol of Reconciliation.

Best wishes all


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