NHS medical staff testing coronavirus PPE equipment with army 280420 CREDIT Army in Scotland.jpg
VE Day

'I Feel For Them': WWII Veteran Likens NHS Sacrifices To That Of Soldiers

Jack Watson, 96, recognised health workers risking lives to keep the public safe just as he did during the war.

NHS medical staff testing coronavirus PPE equipment with army 280420 CREDIT Army in Scotland.jpg

A veteran has said the coronavirus outbreak has seen NHS workers put their lives at risk for others, just as the soldiers of the Second World War did.

Ahead of VE Day 75, which has seen commemoration events impacted by the pandemic, 96-year-old Jack Watson said he feels for the health staff fighting the UK's largest battle in decades.

The veteran, originally from Guildford, counts himself "lucky" to have survived flying on 77 operations as a flight engineer on Lancaster bombers during the conflict.

Speaking ahead of adapted events on 8 May, he urged the public to honour those who gave their lives in the war and those in the NHS demonstrating bravery today.

“I think that the sacrifice that every man, every soldier, sailor and airman made, they all sacrificed their lives to give the freedom that we’ve got today,” he said.

“I don’t think we should ever forget those men who died, whatever service they were in, in the same way that the NHS now are putting their lives at risk to save people from this coronavirus.

"I feel for them."

Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives his famous V for Victory sign to a crowd of 50,000 full with the spirit of VE day from the balcony of the Ministry of Health 08051945 CREDIT PA 1
Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives his famous V for Victory sign on VE Day (Picture: PA).

Now a great-grandfather living in Eastbourne, Mr Watson gave his backing to those working on the front line of the health service.

“Like everybody else, I wouldn’t dream of not going out to clap the NHS on a Thursday night.”

The UK is preparing for VE Day commemorations focused on community during the coronavirus lockdown.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is encouraging people to upload photos, stories and memories of those who lived through the war to a digital 'Wall of Remembrance'.

It comes as many efforts to mark the formal acceptance of Germany's surrender 75 years ago have been moved online.

Mr Watson downplayed his role in comparison to the often undocumented bravery of those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Second World War.

“How many times pilots sat at the controls to let their crews try and bail out, that’s the brave part, and we never experienced that,” he added.

Signalling the end of serving with his friends and flight crew, 8 May 1945 brings up for Mr Watson - newly stationed on flight training at the time.

“We’d been so close, in each other’s company, continuously for 15 months, it was like as though I’d lost family,” he said.

“I’d felt as though I’d lost two brothers,” he added, with it taking “a hell of a long time” to get used to civilian life."

Friday's new schedule will include a two-minute silence at 11am (UK time), to honour the sacrifices of the Second World War and the impact of COVID-19.

Cover image: NHS medical staff testing coronavirus PPE equipment with Army personnel (Picture: Army in Scotland).