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The 1949 Berlin Airlift medal: a first class stairlift confusion

Country: United Kingdom

My father-in-law was in the Royal Air Force during the 1948-1949 Berlin Airlift. That was a while ago. 

He now has a stairlift in his house, 65 years later. On the face of it there could be no connection between the two: stairlifts do not take off and land at Tempelhof airport. But there is.

The Berlin Airlift was a huge air supply operation launched by the West to stop the Soviet Union from suffocating West Berlin, after the Russians closed off all land transport links to the city. West Berlin needed emergency food and fuel supplies to stay independent from the Soviets and Britain and the States came to the rescue.  

A British remembrance charity, the Berlin Airlift Association, recently started preparing military medals for all British servicemen still alive who were part of this operation – largely for men who are now 85 and older. Three months ago the association called my father-in-law with the intention of notifying him that he would be awarded a medal. My mother-in-law picked up the phone, took the message for her husband and handed over the phone to him. Unfortunately, she got the source of the call wrong: she wrongly told him that this was from the company calling to repair their stairlift, which was quite overdue.

My father-in-law picked up the phone slightly irritated and started with the words: "Where have you been!? I've been waiting for you for so long!"

It took a conversation of about two minutes until he realised these were no ordinary stairlift people, but rather extraordinary Airlift people who wanted to give him a medal.

I am pleased to say he is now in possession of a shiny medal. The stairlift is still waiting to be repaired.


Themes in story:
  • Royal Air Force
  • Berlin
  • no connection
  • Tempelhof
  • air supply
  • the association
  • been waiting
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