Daily Archives: 25 October, 2009

Victoria Cross Heroes – Flight Sergeant Norman Jackson

The Victoria Cross is the highest award for Gallantry that any British or Commonwealth Serviceman or woman can receive. It is always awarded first at any ceremony, and always the first medal worn. And with apologies to the Medal of Honour and the Iron Cross, there really is something special about that crimson ribbon and dark metal pattee cross. It has a history and a mystique all of its own. Go to a Museum where they have VC’s on show, and gaze through the gleaming glass at those hallowed medals, and try and argue that they are ‘just a lump of metal’.

Created in the Crimean War to recognise brave and heroic acts by all sailors, soldiers – and later airmen – regardless of class, rank or creed, in recent years it has become harder and harder to earn. This is shown by how many of them are awarded Posthumously, after the recipient has died in action. Of the two awarded for the Falklands War, both Sergeant Ian McKay and Lieutenant-Colonel H Jones were killed in Action. Corporal Bryan Budd was also killed winning his VC in Afghanistan. Only Private Johnson Beharry, in Iraq, has survived to receive his award in person in recent conflicts. And even then, he suffered terrible brain damage in the process. There are also countless stories of men being nominated for VC’s, but in the long process they were awarded a more minor medal.

It has occured to me more and more that although we are fully aware of some of the more famous VC winners – Guy Gibson, Leonard Cheshire, and of course the famous action at Rorkes Drift. But what of the hundreds of other recipients who did amazing things, but that we dont hear about?

So, starting now I’m going to take a periodic delve into the London Gazette’s records of Victoria Cross Citations, and look at some unsung holders of the Victoria Cross. This week we look at Flight Sergeant Norman Jackson.

Flight Sergeant Norman Jackson was the flight engineer in a Lancaster detailed to attack Schweinfurt on the night of 26th April, 1944. Suddenly it was attacked by a fighter at about 20,000 feet. A fire started near a petrol tank on the upper surface of the starboard wing, between the fuselage and the inner engine. Sergeant Jackson received shell splinters in the right leg and shoulder. Recovering himself, he remarked that he could deal with the fire on the wing and obtained his captain’s permission to try to put out the flames. With a fire extinguisher and parachute, he started to climb out of the cockpit and back along the top of the fuselage to the starboard wing. Before he could leave the fuselage his parachute pack opened and the whole canopy and rigging lines spilled into the cockpit. Undeterred, Sergeant Jackson continued. The pilot, bomb aimer and navigator gathered the parachute together and held on to the rigging lines, paying them out as the airman crawled aft. Eventually he slipped and, falling from the fuselage to the starboard wing, grasped an air intake on the leading edge of the wing. He succeeded in clinging on but lost the extinguisher, which was blown away. By this time, the fire had spread rapidly and Sergeant Jackson was involved. His face, hands and clothing were severely burnt. Unable to retain his hold he was swept through the flames and over the trailing edge of the wing, dragging his parachute behind. When last seen it was only partly inflated and was burning in a number of places. Realising that the fire could not be controlled, the captain gave the order to abandon aircraft. Four of the remaining members of the crew landed safely. The captain and rear gunner died. Sergeant Jackson was unable to control his descent and landed heavily. He sustained a broken ankle, his right eye was closed through burns and his hands were useless. This airman’s attempt to extinguish the fire and save the aircraft and crew from falling into enemy hands was an act of outstanding gallantry. To venture outside, when travelling at 200 miles an hour, at a great height and in intense cold, was an almost incredible feat.

Flight Sergeant Norman Jackson VC

Flight Sergeant Norman Jackson VC

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Filed under Afghanistan, Falklands War, Iraq, Museums, Remembrance, Royal Air Force, World War Two

the Sunday Papers – 25th Oct 09

As Sunday is traditionally a day when the newspapers put in their more serious stories that they have been working on all week, rather than simply what happened the day before, I thought I would start a regular round up of what is happening in the Papers relating to the Armed Forces and History.

The Queen is reportedly furious about the rise of the BNP, the News of the World reports. She has ordered all of the Royal Family to stake a stand to ensure that the United Kingdom stays united. She is also angry about their use of Winston Churchill in their publicity. Churchill was the Queen’s first Prime Minister, and she granted him a state funeral after his death for his iconic war leadership. This is an unprecedented move for the Queen, who usually keeps quiet on politics. But being the savvy monarch that she is, it shows how seriously the situation is (News of the World).

The People reports that Jordan is considering going to Afghanistan on a ‘morale raising’ trip for the troops. I can’t help thinking that its just a publicity stunt, funnily enough it comes when shes very unpopular after her acrimonious divorce (The People).

If anyone is still in any doubt about the true colours of the BNP, the Sunday Mirror tells us much here (Sunday Mirror). Meanwhile, the Sunday Express reports that the same blog entry by a senior BNP figure orders Jews to ‘show respect’ or when the BNP get in power they will ‘reap what they sow’. Who wants these people in charge of the country, seriously? (Sunday Express).

Former First Sea Lord Sir Alan West has spoken out in criticism of General Sir Richard Dannatt’s appointment as Tory Defence advisor. Funnily enough, West is serving as a Security Minister under the current Labour Government. Coincidence? He says that it is wrong for ex service chiefs to undermine their successors, but surely its better to have someone who knows what they are doing than a besuited politician who knows nothing? (Sunday Times).

Comedian Jimmy Carr has made a bad call by making fun of amputee servicemen, stating that ‘we should have a good paralympics team in 2012′ (Sunday Telegraph).

Peter Hitchens makes some interesting comments about Nick Griffin’s Question Time appearance, namely suggesting that it might end up provoking a myth that he was ‘stabbed in the back’, much like the lies that the Nazis peddled that the Jews were to blame for Germany losing the First World War (Mail on Sunday).

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Filed under Afghanistan, Army, debate, Navy, News, politics