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
    -7

    Comment number 167.

    154.
    WE declared on war on Germany, and we invented the concentration camp in the Boer War.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 166.

    RAF bomber pilots also suffered in one instance from the slow reaction by RAF Intelligence to the German 'Shrage Musik' upward, obliquely firing
    20 and 30mm cannon fitted to some nightfighters. Far too many of our aircraft were lost this way.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 165.

    Couldn't £6m have been better spent on the men and women of the present who need medical (physical or mental) attention after their participation in current wars?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 164.

    #125 leftiagitator, my history teacher at school was a German Jew who fled Germany in the mid 1930's and in answer to your point was a 12 year old complicit in the in the actions of the Hitler regime the answer is YES. Teenagers and children pointed out to the authorities their 'friends' who were Jewish even when they did not fit the stereotypical Nazi view and had been missed.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 163.

    My Grandad was a part of this I think, did all the real dambusters type stuff too, very hard for him to talk about still. He has so many stories to tell, saw so many friends die, landed with no wheels etc. He's still alive but he's not well and the system seems to have forgotten about him and what he did. I'll be proud of him forever though. Nice to see this.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 162.

    Wonderfully moving memorial to an immensely brave group of people - thank you for your sacrifice that allow me and my children the freedoms we hold dear and take for granted today.
    Eternal rest grant unto them and let perpetual light shine upon them and may they all rest in peace Amen.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 161.

    About time too.
    Those men were heros.
    They did not start the war that put Britain's very suvival at risk but they helped to finish it.
    They did not pick the targets, they bombed what they were ordered to bomb.
    Obviously everyone deplores the loss of civilian lives in both Germany and the UK but WW2 was really nation against nation rather than a war fought just by armies navies and air forces.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 160.

    About time! Nice to have a memorial to (among thousands of others) the husband of one of my father's cousins, lost over the Bay of Biscay in 1944 and a distant, Canadian, cousin who was part of a crew that bailed out - he and his pilot were taken away by the Gestapo and never seen again. Geneva Convention?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 159.

    124. Andrzej Gruszczynski

    "Remember about the Polish pilots and their share in the Battle of England"

    I totally agree that we should equally remember the brave Polish pilots who fought alongside us in the Battle of Britain. They were also overlooked in the victory speech and victory parade which is a shame.

    Hopefully there will be a memorial to them too one day.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 158.

    140.livelylefty

    Yes, and please don't forget who STARTED the war. Regarding the bombing campaign, there was no accurate way of bombing from 20,000 feet, at day or night and Albert Speer himself admitted the second front which was the bombing war put an enormous strain on Germany's armaments industry at a time when it was the ONLY way of taking the war to Germany.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 157.

    It is an excellent memorial, though. Very well made. I just wonder how long it'll be before some young, snot-nosed lefty scumbag desecrates it...

    Why do so many young people mock and desecrate our war memorials? Answer: it's because our history, our values are not taught at school. That's the law. Sssh! Don't mention the war! Our history, our values are things to be ashamed of, not proud.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 156.

    140.livelylefty
    "The bombing missions are what took away any moral high ground, and lets not forget we attacked civillians first, not Hitler"
    Britain was losing the Battle of Britain when Germany accidentally bombed London. That gave us the excuse to bomb Berlin. An incensed Hitler switched his bombers from the airfields to the cities thereby saving our airforce & eventually winning us the war.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 155.

    Lets not forget livelylefty (comment 140) that we may have dropped bombs on civilians first but it was a mistake and not a deliberate act.

    Great to see a memorial I say, but so sad that so many lives had to be lost on both sides, military and civilian. Perhaps next time the world will stop messing around and appeasing nut cases and deal more firmly earlier on.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 154.

    Quote "livelylefty
    and lets not forget we attacked civillians first, not Hitler"

    Oh really, then what was Auschwitz holiday camp?

    People are just as dead from being starved or gassed or shot than bombed.
    Let us not forget that it was Hitler who Started the War, and the Allies that ended it!

  • rate this
    -43

    Comment number 153.

    Sorry, but the allied but the Bomber Command including Bomber Harris decision to go and bomb the city of Dresden was a War Crime which killed many people in an appalling way. It was totally unnecessary as the War was done with and over. This was Genocide on a grand scale and Sir Winston acted appallingly in this decision. He was showing off at the expense of innocent people who were killed

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 152.

    The bombing of Germany was to Stop the War. Germany invaded all of Europe and was systematically murdering millions of citizens in death-camps.

    The bombing campaigns conducted by our brave airmen won the war Germany started. Oh dear.

    Fantastic memorial.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 151.

    Nice to see apologists and revisionists lowest rated.

    They should go off to the David Irving site and stop polluting hys with their neo views.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 150.

    Even Einstein broke his lifelong pacifism in WW2, warning Roosevelt about the atomic bomb and kick starting the Manhattan project which led to Hiroshima

    Even pacifists had to choose sides in WW2

    http://www.dannen.com/ae-fdr.html

    RIP brave men

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 149.

    81 Mark

    Prince Philip as many pointed out was in the Navy in the Med fighting for the Allies.
    117.Geoff
    Prince Charles however wasnt born till 1948. So to be fair played no part in WW2

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 148.

    And we're still at it.

 

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