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

    Comment number 487.

    My Grandfather was a Squadron Leader for Bomber Command. He died over twelve years ago. He would have loved to have seen this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    #469 and #472. The memorial wasn't funded by public money, something which five minutes on Google would have told you. As for the comment about carbon emissions, you are Tommy Troll and I claim my five pounds. As for those of you who are spouting claptrap about war crimes, get yourselves over to the appropriate areas on E-Goat or ARRSE, say the same things and see what reaction you get. Dare you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    @ Icebloo ........ Do your homework the government didn't pay for the memorial. Your comment is disgraceful in its ignorance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 484.


    US "occupy" Europe?

    You really are a Troll arn't you? Care to provide any sort of auditable evidence of this allegation? Whats stopping independant, free countries - which all European Countries are, investigating whatever they like? Evidence please.

    I have German relatives, they believe the Holocaust, I visited Auschwitz with them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    465.Whistling Neil
    Hitler may not have been elected , but he certainly was supported by the vast majority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    Comment number 327. tabasco12

    Having read a few of his/her contributions over the last few days I don't think is a real person, rather a group of people having a laugh or perhaps someone trying to stir hatred against migrants.

    I recommend that nobody rises to these posts."

    It's probably nieuw divil/Tsunami of Logic/nautie divil out of work again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.

    446 BMP
    Now we know he's a Holocaust-denier. Ever visited Auschwitz? Even visited the war graves in France and Belgium? Didn't think so.
    Please crawl back under your stone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    It's a sign of the times, this statue is a prime candidate for getting nicked by the metal thieves. Desperate people will always find a way to earn living.

  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    @ 456 - Tio Terry

    My reference to laser-guided bombing is to show how even accurate bombing such as that can cause civilian casualties; therefore firebombing an entire city shouldn't be ever be considered a just act of war.

    The link you provided backs up your theory of Dresden-for-Coventry; that's kinda sad. Interesting link regardless - thanks!

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.

    However, I do wonder if these men look at this country today, and wonder what on earth they fought for, and what all those brave men died for. Thanks to immigration policies over the past 30 years, the country they fought for against invasion, has been given away and completely transformed without a single shot being fired. The left can say what they want, that isn't what they fought and died for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 477.

    I am not surprised that the EU is going down the drain.

    With people who are reliving WWII continuously even after 67 years after the end of that war and displaying the same stereotyping and hatred how can they expect a Union to function.

    Why not go back to bashing each others brains in every 25 years then you can erect memorials at shorter intervals.

    I am glad I live several thousand km away .

  • rate this

    Comment number 476.

    I cannot believe some of the negative comments on here! Probably from a younger generation who have no idea what a war on one's own shores is all about. I'm not of the WW2 generation but I am damned grateful for all those guys did.Yes, all wars are terrible and there are dreadful decisions to be made but what was the alternative? Lie down and let Hitler trample over the whole world? I think not!

  • rate this

    Comment number 475.

    The heroism and sacrifice of these flight crews should not be brought into question by arguments or debate over the rights or wrongs of those who made the decisions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 474.

    1940 - ten years old - terrified - bombs all around - under kitchen table wedged between bath and wall - 4 years on dodging doodlebugs and V2s. I prayed we were hitting them harder still, if not I 'd be after Churchill myself ! Thank you, men of Bomber Command - job well done.
    A world rid of Nazis and safe for academics !

  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    Pilots took their orders and displayed exceptional courage throughout the course of war, many never made it back to their families and those who did remember their comrades with utmost pride. In the same situation we would be back to back doing the same for our country as they did, they were brave young guys and this memorial is a lasting tribute for the ultimate sacrifices they paid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    We spend £6M on a new memorial for events over 65 years ago, yet we allow war memorials erected since 1920 to be vandalised and robbed by metal thieves. Are we spending our resources properly ?
    As for the fly-pasts: they are a fitting tribute, but how serious are we about the need to reduce carbon emissions ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    However, in my opinion, a memorial for those who fought in Bomber Command is still a proper thing, and long overdue. The fallen of these units died fighting valiantly for an overall good cause, and the majority of the raids were against valid military targets. The in some cases highly questionable orders of their superiors are not to be held against these men beyond the grave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    Fifty five thousand died to protect you and me from a fascist dictatorship that would have torched Europe had they won. At a cost of £6M, this long-overdue memorial equates to just £100 for each aircrew life lost - not much more than a football match ticket today. The apologists on here need to get some perspective and see that these young men gave their lives so that you could be on benefits

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    Was this really worth 6 MILLION pounds ? I'm all for a memorial but 6 MILLION pounds ? I see we are in austerity when it comes to paying people and helping people but this idiot government can still waste all this money on stupidity like this. It's disgraceful. I can't wait until the Tories are kicked out at the next election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    This is a great place if you like jumping to conclusions. Those who want to commemmorate people caught in the extremes of human existence are criticised for being gungho about war. I suspect they all would regard war as something horrific to be avoided at all costs.


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