Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A forgotten Spitfire hero

As a Spitfire pilot in the Second World War, John Mejor risked his life for his country, England. He went on to devote his working life to conservation, helping to preserve the nation’s heritage and landscape.

But in his hour of need, when he might have expected something in return, the state he gave so much to has forgotten him. The 88-year-old grandfather, who requires round-the-clock nursing at a home because of dementia and diabetes, has had the funding for his care withdrawn despite the advice of his GP.
His family now fear they will have to sell the house where his 94-year-old wife Cecile lives to cover the care home costs. On Thursday his daughter Sally Mejor, 54, said: ‘My father made great sacrifices for his country, he is a war hero and deserves better than this. I feel totally let down and hurt that he has been treated in this way.

Sally Mejor with father John Mejor, 88, is being forced to sell his house after the NHS withdrew full funding for his care.

‘It is a complete nightmare, a disgrace and an insult. He was, and still is, a very dignified man.’

Mr Mejor was moved from his house in Exmouth, Devon, to a care home 18 months ago because his family could no longer look after him following a series of mini-strokes.

At first his NHS Trust paid the £800-aweek costs at the nearby Linksway Care Home under its ‘continuing health care’ scheme. Mr Mejor was eligible for the scheme, which is not means tested, because of the assessment of his GP.
But now his health needs have been reviewed by a different doctor acting for the trust. Officials say he is no longer considered a ‘severe’ case and will only receive £106 per week towards his care.
Miss Mejor, however, says her father’s condition has not improved and his GP does not agree with the findings.

Miss Mejor, who lives at the family home in Exmouth as her mother’s full-time carer, said: ‘I cared for him myself for the first five years of his illness and if I could manage to continue I would. At no point was it said there would be any timeframe or, that should his condition improve, even slightly, it would be pulled from us.
‘If there was plenty of money to cover it, I would be willing and happy to pay. But because there isn’t, I have to stand up for him.’ 

Mr Mejor was born in Belgium but moved to Britain as a young boy and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in the war. During a mission over Malta in 1942, in which he shot down German bombers, he was forced to bale out over the sea after his plane was hit – but returned to battle the very next day.

His last operational flight was on D-Day, and after the war he rose to the rank of wing commander, in charge of a squadron of Vampire fighters. He retired in 1964 and set up the Devon Conservation Forum and the Devon Historic Buildings Trust.

Mr Mejor flew a Spitfire like this one above in the Second World War during the battle for Malta

Miss Mejor said: ‘What worries me is the money we are going to have to find for his care is going to have an effect on my mother’s life.

‘I’m fearful for her future, too, because we’re going to have to sell this house and she very much wanted to spend the rest of her life here.’

The family could apply for the NHS to pay for the residential care, but this is means tested and it is highly likely they would be unsuccessful. A health care source said that because Mr Mejor’s health was thought to have improved, extra funding would be an issue of social care – such as help with washing and dressing – rather than health care. This would make it a matter for the local authority, not the NHS.
On Thursday NHS Devon said the cost of Mr Mejor’s care would still be covered while an appeal was heard. This could take several months.

Parveen Brown, who is responsible for continuing health care funding at NHS Devon, said: ‘There is no question of funding being suddenly cut off, or of houses having to be sold abruptly.

‘We deal with these issues as sensitively as we can and we will offer our support throughout.’

Means test rules in England state that anybody who has been assessed as ineligible for nursing care must pay for residential care if they have assets worth more than £23,000. Last month it was revealed that at least 3,000 elderly people a year are forced to sell their homes to pay for residential care. There are fears that cash-strapped health trusts will use public spending cuts as an excuse to reduce funding further in England.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

South Normay-April 12, 1940 by Fl/Lt. M.W Donaldson, Royal Air Force

This is the account of a bomber pilot whose bombers formation attacked and sank the German cruiser "Karlsruhe" Flight Lieutenant Donaldson who is a Canadian flying with The Royal Air Force, hails from Lethbridge, Alberta, held a short term pre-war comission in the R.A.F.

This is a day i shall not forget in a hurry as it landed in Gafangenenschaft where i have resided. I was in a night bomber squadron, but owing to the invasion of Norway and our almost complete lack of long range day bombers we were called up to operate in daylight.

A German heavy cruiser (later identified as the Karlsruhe) had been damaged in the early morning hours by our Navy, but owing to heavy seas and bad visibility had made good escape. We were ordered to locate and destroy her. After a sticky trip across the North Sea the 12 of us arrived over the south coast of Norway and opening up into a wide view of sanctions commenced a sweep. I was a little worried about our formation as operating over ennemy territory with heavy and consequently slow aircraft, we ran every chance of meeting fighters. However we carried on and after two hours sweeping we sighted our quarry lying in Kristiansand harbour. "What very shortly proved to be a very costly mistake was made here as our leader ordered us into sections astern, aircraft astern which presented a long line of single bombers to the ennemy, any one of which could be engaged without assistance from another, and it also cut down our firepower to a bare minimum.

Opening the bomb doors we fused our bombs and commenced our run up. The picture is and will be clear in my mind; a cloudless sky, height 12,000 feet, airspeed 180 miles per hour, the cruiser appearing as a small gray silver of steel dashing headlong for the open sea and a pumping up of A.A. for all she was worth. Leading the last section of three, i was just coming onto the target when low and behold enemy fighters, six Messerschmiths 109's. Needless to say they attacked my section and in less time than it takes to put in writing my No.3 airman was shot down in flames and all hands were sadly lost. My No.2 and i managed to weather the storm, ran up, bomded, and as i did a turn to the west saw a direct hit scored just forward of my funnel. But i had very little time to observe as i was unable to catch up to the rest of my formation owing to the increased speed and the heavy and accurate attacks of the ennemy.

Being completely unable to hold them off, having neither the speed nor the firepower i came down to sea level, that at least protected our belly. The two of us had only just arrived there and got properly formed up with No.2 and simply exploded in mid-air in a mass of flames and in the twinkling of an eye had dissappeared forever under the cold gray surface of the sea. I was just about to throw in the towel then and there as with all my section except myself shot down, one of my gunners killed, the rest of us all hit and bullets and cannon shells simply raining in from all directions, we were a gone goose. But one dosen't surrender in the air and fight on we did.

After about three-quarters of an hour of concentrated hell my starboard engine took fire and i was forced to turn north and try to make the Norwegian coast. On the run in, the Jerries figuring we were cold meat threw caution to the winds and attacked relentleely right up to 20 yards. It was a bad mistake on their part as we still had a certain sting in the for of two Vickers K's. By simply heroic work my remaining rear gunner bounced three of them in quick succession with the result the remainder held off to a more respectable distance. Just as we were approching the shore, a well placed burst brought us crashing down in flames in the sea. By the grace of God and a lot of luck, we in the aircraft who were alive as we were shot down all emerged alive and kicking from what had a few seconds before been an aircraft.

Well there it is Jerry, you will no doubt think it is just one big moan--probably it is, but one does hate like hell to be as throughly thrashed as we were and have practically no means of fighting back but let me tell you the war is not over for me. I will continue fighting to my last breath!