A WORLD War II bomber described by many as a “reluctant hero” has been awarded a Bomber Command Medal – 69 years after he last flew over Nazi Germany.
Edward Sullivan is now 93 but his memories of the Blitz and the raids over Europe are still vivid. He will never accept what he did for his King and country as anything but his duty – but that’s what made his efforts and bravery so remarkable. On receiving his medal, Edward said: “I often wonder when people ask me whether it was worth it. I will tell you this; when I look at my lovely family and friends and what they can do now, I say it was worth it.”
While living in London after leaving his family home in Dowlais aged 16, young Edward Sullivan was working in the capital when the war broke out. He was in his early-20s in 1939 and, at first, he joined the Air Raid Precautions heavy rescue squad before joining the RAF during the Blitz in 1941.
He wanted to become a pilot but failed an eye test and instead trained to become a flight engineer.
Having completed his training, he was posted to RAF Bardney as a sergeant in 9 Squadron, where he would join the Lancaster Bomber Crew. As a member of Bomber Command, the odds were stacked heavily against Edward. According to records 55,573 aircrew lost their lives fighting in the air – nearly half of those who flew during the war. “There were people who couldn’t do it,” he said. “They were branded cowards, but they weren’t; you could either do it or you couldn’t.
“I wasn’t like that. I could take it – but it didn’t make me braver.
“It’s a strange thing this, but when we carried the bombs [over Germany], only when I was told to open the bombing doors did I feel naked. I felt exposed and only felt relief when the bomb had gone.” Edward completed 26 raids and on completion was posted to RAE Farnborough to take up experimental flying duties. He was awarded the distinguished Flying Medal in 1943, and attended Buckingham Palace with his wife Megan and his mother in 1945, where he received an investiture from King George VI.
He continued: “When I was a child I loved the thought of flying. Maybe that was an influence when I look back. I am not sorry for what I did but I can tell you that during raids I did think of the people underneath me because I experienced similar things in London.
“But I still knew I would be going the next night.”
Edward was commissioned before leaving the RAF in 1947. In 1972 – after 25 years working as an engineer in the aircraft industry – he became a teacher at Pen-y-Dre High School.