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 187.

    Andrew. You should read more about the war. I lived through it and you should remember that as far as Dresden was concerned it was a collection point for a great number of the Germans troops retreating from Russia and legitimate targets (you can't pick and chose from 18000 feet) AND after our night raid the Americans bombed Dresden the next morning for hours! A 50/50 attack and justly deserved.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 186.

    I for one will be visiting this memorial and giving thanks to those brave men. I think it's a lovely memorial and long overdue.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 185.

    About time too! My grandfather gave up his reserved occupation and volunteered for Bomber Command because he wanted to do his bit for his country. Bombing was the only way to hit Germany before D-Day.

    He flew a dozen missions before being shot down. He survived as a POW, but as in so many cases most of the crew were lost. So many brave men facing fearful odds who should be recognised.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 184.

    It seems to me that the powers-that-be seem ashamedof this.
    Was this so much worse than what was done here?

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 183.

    140. livelylefty

    "...and let’s not forget we attacked civilians first, not Hitler."

    A comment as stupid as it is inaccurate. The Nazis were killing civilians in their own country long before Britain entered the war. Indeed, it was the Nazi invasion of Poland and bombing of its cities that brought Britain into the war in the first place.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 182.

    As the song goes, 'At Last'
    My Uncle is buried along with his crew mates in CWWG Cem. Lorient. 2 are buried together as they couldnt seperate them. One has to experience a stick of bombs falling on ones head to understand the air war, they did it to us & we did it to them, If one looks at the true story of the air war, then pasifist thoughts of Dresden & other sites arise after the conflict.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 181.

    Further to my previous comment I notice that some are referring to Dresden - for your info Dresden was a major rail hub and the russians asked us (Bomber Command) to attack it as it would reduce the germans ability to pour men and materials into the eastern front.

    Unbiased research is always useful!

  • rate this
    -71

    Comment number 180.

    What Bomber command did in Dresden was a total disgrace. You don't deserve a memorial for your actions.

  • rate this
    +18

    Comment number 179.

    I'm fed up with the negative remarks on this subject! WW2 was a different time, and different values. What would've happened if Britain had not used these tactics in that era? A UK led by 'Herr Hitler'? Would u like that?? History is littered with atrocities that were considered then 'a price worth paying'. It's very easy to sit back decades later criticising. These lads deserve the recognition!

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 178.

    To all those decrying this memorial. To all those insulting the fallen in any way shape or form remember one thing. If it had not been for them you would not be here putting your points of view in English! Probably not German either as I am sure there would be no dissent allowed in occupied UK.

  • rate this
    -19

    Comment number 177.

    Allied attacks on Dresden and the like so late in the already won war reeked of wretched spiteful pointless revenge,
    It lowered us into the gutter with the Nazis and made us look like Stalins puppets,
    Churchill was right to sweep the whole sorry mess under the carpet after the war.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 176.

    I am glad to see a memorial to these people who lost their lives.

    The number of RAF servicement who died, 55,573, is remarkable. I suppose when you start bombing civilian targets this is what you get.

    Ofcourse bombong civlian targets was started by the British. It was continued for some four montrhs before Germany retaliated and began bombing civlian targets too.

  • rate this
    -15

    Comment number 175.

    Sadly it appears from these comments that many in this country are still fighting the seconds world war in the small sphere of their heads. In the end Germany won the peace. I don't think we ever will.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 174.

    "The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation.
    They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind."

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 173.

    I can't believe that it took sixty years to give these men the memorial that they deserve and come on BBC insinuating that what Bomber Command did was wrong and I can't believe that someone actually invited Princess Pushy

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 172.

    Just for lefty boys info - we (The Allies) did not start bombing civilians.
    The German airforce as an experiment bombed Guernica during the spanish civil war - no military value no industry - unopposed so worth trying they thought.
    Also during WWII the german airforce bombed warsaw, rotterdam etc and bombed and straffed columns of refugees to disrupt roads.
    Would suggest he\she does research first

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 171.

    This tribute is long overdue and it is wonderful to have our Monarch bestowed upon it. To the negative comments and 'tree hugging pacifists'.

    I ask you this, Do you think without these brave men you could voice your opinion today?

  • rate this
    +20

    Comment number 170.

    154. Spindoctor
    Quote "livelylefty
    and lets not forget we attacked civillians first, not Hitler"
    --
    Complete and utter guff. Kristalnacht? Guernica & Warsaw predate us entering the war. Rotterdam was blitzed while we were still dropping leaflets. Throughout 1940 & 41 German bombers raided us nightly while bomber command was trying 'precision' attacks and getting slaughtered.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 169.

    145.
    Andrzej Gruszczynski


    "Please stop talking and writing of the Nazis .
    There was no nation of the Nazis .
    Nazis - the members of Hitler's party were mainly the Germans"

    Please, the war with Germany is over .

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 168.

    #144One of the reasons that so many lives were lost between 1939-1945 is that others like you continually baulked at standing up to Hitler from his first military actions as a result 50+ million died.

    Very true, if France and the British Empire had made there stand over Czecksolvakia. The war would have been alot shorter or might never happened

 

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