Queen unveils RAF Bomber Command memorial

 

The Queen unveiled the memorial to over 55,000 airmen of Bomber Command who died in WWII

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A £6m memorial to the 55,573 airmen of Bomber Command who died during World War II has been unveiled by the Queen.

At the ceremony in London's Green Park, Chief of the Air Staff Sir Stephen Dalton said Bomber Command's "service and raw courage" had been recognised.

Some 6,000 veterans and families of the deceased watched a Lancaster bomber drop thousands of poppies in a flypast.

Criticism of large-scale area bombing by the RAF near the end of WWII had stalled plans for a memorial for years.

Veterans from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other countries who served alongside the British crew also attended the ceremony.

At the scene

Hundreds of Bomber Command veterans have been taking a close-up look at the new memorial in London's Green Park honouring the sacrifice of 55,573 of their comrades.

They crowded around the bronze statues of seven Lancaster bomber airmen and had their pictures taken with family members.

Earlier, there had been applause as the Queen unveiled the memorial.

Veterans described it as "impressive" and "moving".

About 5,000 had watched the dedication service on a big screen in the "salute area", a short walk away. The event was organised by the RAF Benevolent Fund, which will look after maintenance of the memorial and is now seeking to raise £1.5m to help cover costs.

Russell Oldmeadow, 90, from Canberra, Australia, a Lancaster pilot during WWII, was one of a number of Commonwealth airmen present.

"My brother was killed - that's one reason why I'm here," he said.

"But it's also a great occasion and I'm privileged. The memorial is absolutely magnificent."

Air Chief Marshal Dalton said: "Many of those who gave us our freedom, and to whom this memorial is dedicated, cannot join us physically, but their spirit is certainly here.

"For their bravery and sacrifice which helped to give us our freedom, we will never forget them."

Doug Radcliffe, secretary of the Bomber Command Association, read an extract from the WWI poem "For the Fallen".

The repetition of the final words, "We will remember them," by all gathered at the ceremony, was followed by a trumpeter playing the "Last Post" while veterans and current service personnel saluted.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh departed after the dedication ceremony, leaving the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to meet Bomber Command veterans.

The London Ambulance Service later said 24 elderly people at the event were treated and five taken to hospital with dehydration and other heat-related problems.

Reflective 'moment'

The memorial features a 9ft-high sculpture of seven Bomber Command aircrew

The memorial, designed by Liam O'Connor and built in Portland stone, features a bronze 9ft-high sculpture of seven aircrew.

Sculptor Philip Jackson said the tone of the work was reflective and portrayed men returning from a mission: "I chose the moment when they get off the aircraft and they've dumped all their heavy kit on to the ground."

The memorial also has a roof made of aluminium reclaimed from a Handley Page Halifax III bomber shot down over Belgium in May 1944.

History of Bomber Command

circa 1940:  An RAF bomber navigator.  (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
  • Formed in 1936
  • Mission to attack Germany's airbases, troops, shipping and industrial complexes connected to the war effort
  • Crews from UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and all corners of Commonwealth plus occupied nations including Poland, Czechoslovakia and France, and allied countries such as the US
  • Average age of bombers about 22
  • Switched to inaccurate night bombing to reduce casualties
  • First "thousand-bomber raid" in May 1942 - against Cologne, three months after "Bomber" Harris made commander in chief
  • Famous Dambusters raid of May 1943 struck at dams surrounding Ruhr Valley

An inscription says the memorial "also commemorates those of all nations who lost their lives in the bombing of 1939-1945".

Pilot Alan Biffen, 87, said: "I am so glad that at long last Bomber Command is being remembered not only for what it achieved but also for the lives of the young men who never came back."

Almost half of the 125,000 men of Bomber Command died, many killed by night fighters and anti-aircraft fire in raids over occupied Europe.

The ceremony is the culmination of a five-year campaign, spearheaded by the late Bee Gees singer Robin Gibb.

The Bomber Command Memorial Appeal secured funding from public donations and private donors John Caudwell, Lord Ashcroft and Richard Desmond.

There were no campaign medals specifically for Bomber Command after the war and no mention of it in Prime Minister Winston Churchill's victory speech.

It was criticised by some for raids on Dresden in the closing months of the war, causing fire-storms which killed about 25,000 civilians in the destruction of the city centre.

The RAF Benevolent Fund will take over guardianship of the memorial.

A special programme about the ceremony, Bomber Command: A Tribute, is being shown at 17:00 BST on BBC Two on Thursday.

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 87.

    The brave RAF aircrews who lost their lives fighting over Germany deserve their memorial. Long, long overdue. They had no choice but to follow orders.

    Whether 'Bomber' Harris deserves a statue, however, is more questionable.

    But the man truly responsible for the British terror bombing campaign over Germany was Winston Churchill - the same man who led Britain to victory.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 86.

    The whole point of 'total war' is that the enemy civilian population, men women and children become targets.
    The pre-WWII bomber theorists postulated that as, 'the bomber would always get through', future wars would be won by breaking the enemy's population will to resist. Population centres were primary targets.
    It didn't work but a lot of civilians died while the theory was tested in practice.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 85.

    Long, long overdue. With thanks to the many brave men who helped overcome tyranny.

    Congratulations to all those who worked tirelessly to make this happen and to those who gave so generously. My only hope is that all the survivors and relatives who wanted to attend were indeed able to do so.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 84.

    if it wasnt for our pilots during world war 2 we would have been invaded by germany lets not forget about that due to these couragous people of the land and air forces we owe them our greatest honour and should never be forgotten, think people forget that london blitz and coventry and other cities were bombed none stop

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 83.

    @49. Hitler was democratically elected by the German people. His party had 8.5m members in 1945. The killing of innocent civilians in wartime, where avoidable, is regrettable. But how innocent were the German people given the facts in my opening 2 sentences? There were 50k people working in over 100 factories in Dresden. It was hardly distinct from the Nazi war effort.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 82.

    Tyrants like Hilter put their civilians at huge risk when they perform grand plans for world domination. Unfortunately those who are left to defend themselves against tyrants have to resort to extraordinary means and often horrendous actions to bring these regimes to an end. The bomber command put their lives (all 55,000 + of them) at risk to save us from the Nazis. I salute these brave men!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 81.

    This is an amazing piece of sculpture and athough I am no fan of the royal family I have to admit that the queen was the right person to unveil. I have to ask the question however, which wars did the duke and Charles fight in to earn their medals and it must be nice to know that you will never have to make this sort of sacrifce. This belongs to the people who fought, are fighting and will fight.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 80.

    @sleepingJupiter I think you'll find what is beyond decency is your atrocious spelling!

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 79.

    66. sleeping Jupiter.

    What a ridiculous post! Thankfully the 'turmoil in Europe' now is entirely peaceful- all to do with money, not the lives of citizens. That's what these boys and millions of other brave men achieved! Jaw jaw not war war. This is not a 'celebration'- it's a commemoration- there is a big, big difference!

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 78.

    Whether or not it was right for Britain to carpet bomb I dont know. And how on earth can we make such judgements from our current day unthreatened life of relative ease, peace and plenty. One thing I do know is that its way past time that we recognised the sheer bravery of the men who flew these things- rembering that the odds were that you would not come back alive from a tour of duty!

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 77.

    The men of Bomber Command flew and died to ensure that critical people of their memorial are free to make their post without having to look over their shoulder for a touch that would have taken them to places like Belen or Ravenscraig.
    This was total war fought by both sides and yes people died, do not apply today's standards to yesterday it doesn;t work that way.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 76.

    66. sleepingJupiter

    Right, when is exactly is the "right time" to remember those who bravely gave their lives to help rid the world of the monstrous tyranny and oppression that was the Nazi regime???

    I would argue it’s all the time lest we take our freedom for granted and forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 75.

    Remember also the fearless Polish fighter pilots, if you lived in London,
    Coventry, Bristol in the early 40's you'd have no regrets about our
    bombing in return.
    Two world wars lost our empire that our forefathers earned, and what have we now ?

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 74.

    #56 The article doesn't mention any of the 20+ different nationalities that flew for bomber command and probably rightly so. It made no difference where you were born once you were over Germany. As well as brave Czechs you had Brits, Canadians, Aussies, Kiwis, Frenchmen, Norwegians, Poles, South Africans, Rhodesians and even a few Americans. Doubtless I've forgotten some nations here too.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 73.

    Isn't that how JFK's older brother, Joseph, was lost ?

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 72.

    Finally a fitting tribute, how soon people forget those who gave their lives to save the country during time of war.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 71.

    49.jam4now
    "It is a crime to deliberately target civilians, whether war deemed legal or not"
    Without the benefit of laser guided bombs and missiles, accurate bombing of military targets is impossible - especially if you are being hit with flak & fighters. The German infrastructure HAD to be softened up as part of the essential strategy of winning this war. 55,000 souls lost their lives doing it

  • rate this
    -65

    Comment number 70.

    I agree with Robert to the extent that, although necessary, Bomber Command were responsible for the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, and therefore I don't believe that their behavior should be glorified in the erecting of a monument to their actions.

  • rate this
    -71

    Comment number 69.

    Is there a memorial to the Luftwaffe pilots to bombed Guernica ?

  • Comment number 68.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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