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Poles honour pair for monument to crash airmen
Two men have been honoured for their work in spearheading the building of a monument to seven Polish airmen and in helping re-unite relatives after 66 years.
Jim Hartley, of Bradley, and Peter Whitaker, of Cross Hills, near Skipton, were yesterday presented with two special medals at Bradford Polish Club in Edmond Street.
They were the Summa Cum Laude medal (With the Highest Praise) from the Polish Aviation Museum plus a wax sealed parchment and the Polish Airforce 90th anniversary medal.
The ceremony came just two weeks after Mr Hartley, a 77-year-old former RAF air frame mechanic, was in Krakow, Poland handing out World War Two medals, that the deceased airmen never received, to their relatives.
Also present was Romana Pizon of Bradford Polish Veteran’s Association who helped Mr Hartley establish links in the country.
The presentation took place at the Nova Hotel Centrum in the Polish capital and was attended by top brass from the Polish airforce. Mr Whitaker was unable to be there.
Mr Hartley designed the monument and applied for the Polish airmen’s medals from the Ministry of Defence.
The monument was erected two years ago at the side of the Leeds-Liverpool canal at Bradley forge near Bradley. The Wellington bomber crashed near the site on September 23, 1943.
Mr Hartley said: “We couldn’t have believed in our wildest dreams that when we started to investigate the tragic crash that it would have lead to this.
“Bringing families together like this is very moving and we are flattered to have been honoured by the Polish people. All we wanted to do at first was to honour the sacrifice and heroism of the Polish airmen.”
But the work was still not resolved because the relatives of three of the airmen have still not been found.
“It is still difficult in Poland to trace people but people are still looking for them,” said Mr Hartley.
A ceremony is to be held at the memorial on Wednesday, September 23 when Polish former combatants from Bradford will attend.