It was a small article yesterday. Perhaps it should have been bigger. “WW2 medals sold to pay for care” described how the family of Wing Commander Bransome “Branse” Burbridge, the RAF’s most prolific night pilot of the war, were having to sell off his medals to raise £120,000 for his care costs.
The Wing Commander, aged 93, now has Alzheimer’s. Back then he intercepted three V1 flying bombs en route to London and shot down 21 enemy aircraft. The auction will include his DSO, both(!) his DFCs and his RAF flying jacket.
This sad tale had extra poignance for me because at the weekend, my girls’ grandfather died. General Sir Richard Worsley GCB OBE was a former Quartermaster-General of the British Army, who planned the logistics of the Falklands War. In a distinguished career he served during WW2 in the Middle East and Italy (he made his men stop in St Peter’s Square, Rome, and “brew up” to savour the “full import” of the moment) and then the “Malayan Emergency”. Subsequent commands included the Royal Dragoons, the 7th Armoured Brigade (the Desert Rats), the 3rd Division and 1 (British) Corps. An impressive, somewhat intimidating man, he was a “funny”, lovely grandpa.
His later life was also blighted by dementia. Just last week, after years of devoted home care, he was moved to a home of the sort for which the Burbridge family is trying to raise cash. I hope somehow that his family will not have to sell off his medals to pay for the care he so deserves. We owe the Wing Commander, the General and their ilk so much more than most of us today realise, arguably our entire way of life. We must cherish, honour, help and never forget them.