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
    +11

    Comment number 507.

    I cannot begin to conceive the courage shown by those airmen. Thank you for our liberty. Lest We Forget.

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 506.

    The ignorance of some people. These people gave there lives for this country and all you can say is "but they killed civillians!"

    Disgraceful. Try engaging your brains.

    Anyone who is willing to put their life on the line to protect this country should have automatic respect.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 505.

    A worthwhile read is that of Last Waltz in Vienna by John Clare, a first-hand account of his memories of the insidious onslaught of Nazism and all it held. Without spoiling the story, he is also honoured by today’s long awaited magnificent commemoration.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 504.

    To "South Pacific" - these man and in some cases, boys, didn't have an option. They were conscripted to the RAF and they didn't have a democratic vote on what was bombed - they followed orders. Maybe the outcome was heinous, but we didn't start the war; we didn't invade Poland, Netherlands, France etc - we were trying to rid Europe of the Nazi jackboot. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 503.

    @493 I trust you'll be accepting of your fate when you're killed because someone you've never even spoken to decided it was okay to kill civilians. And because someone else decided the price of payback is your life.


    These crews of bomber command did just that.

    Many of them gave their lives in the defence of this realm.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 502.

    For those mis-informed people on here: please note YOU have not paid £6m for this memorial. None of this is has come out of Your pocket unless you have specifically donated money. The money has been raised by public and charitable donations. The future upkeep will not be at Your expense either. You can rest easy in your beds thanks to the sacrifice these men made on your behalf.

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 501.

    The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations.

  • rate this
    -12

    Comment number 500.

    For those so excited by the bombers work I suggest by you read, Paul Ham's, Hiroshima Nagasaki, Harper Collins Publishers 2011.

    Paul Ham is an Australian historian.

    There more than a 100,000 people died in an instant, mainly women, children and the elderly. hundred of thousand succumbed to their terrible injuries or radiation later.

    Bombing civilians is so "heroic."

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 499.

    479.Pyrogen

    There's also bits in that link that suggest that it was the UK's and America's way of telling Stalin not to think about taking on the allies. A sort of "just look at what we could do to you if you try to get to ambitious" statement. I don't know if that is correct, I have no way of finding out. But it does place a question over my previous understanding of why we did it.

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 498.

    Lots of posters here mentioned various Bomber Command's disgraceful acts. The only disgrace was that the Bomber Command did not stand up for its contribution to our victory in 1945 for political reasons.

    It took 67 years to right this wrong.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 497.

    At the time of those bombings in Dresden, news soon got out what they did. I know for a fact that a lot of people were outraged and condemnation at what they had done.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 496.

    There are a lot of negative comments in here. I am pleased to see them relegated. Unless you have experienced war, you can not judged the rights and wrongs of events that happen in it, just as you can not judge yesterdays crimes by todays ethics and morals.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 495.

    494 bobo369
    Grow up - the Queen has done a lot for this country - what have YOU done for it?

  • Comment number 494.

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

  • rate this
    -12

    Comment number 493.

    Seeing as though I have apparently ended up on the Daily Mail's comment section, I leave you all with this:

    Should we find ourselves in such a dire situation as WW2 again, I trust you'll be accepting of your fate when you're killed because someone you've never even spoken to decided it was okay to kill civilians. And because someone else decided the price of payback is your life.

    Laters!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 492.

    Where was David Cameron? Why didn't he attend the ceremony? Even now the politicians still wash their hands of any responsibility, they start wars but always leave it to the ordinary people to finish their dirty work. I admire the courage of the aircrews of Bomber Command, if it wasn't for them we wouldn't be having this debate now. God bless them.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 491.

    War is ugly, total war even more so as there are no civilians just targets to be destroyed. Bomber command did what they had to do, our cities were being bombed flat by the Luftwaffe and this country had to hit back and the only option open to it was Bomber Command whose crews bravery is beyond question these men flew into hell and had life expectancy measured in a few hours.This is long overdue!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 490.

    #477 – Ach away with ya, oh you are already several thousand kms away– the Highland Clearances are not forgotten either and happened long before WWII. History lives and always will. Commemorating aspects of it are honourable. That it took so long is a disgrace, but no longer.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 489.

    I love the mainstream view of the wars. They offer such a simplistic view of why people were ordering other people to arms to kill each other.

    Nonetheless, these were extremely brave men and should not be forgotten.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 488.

    U Boats killed indiscriminatley trying to starve Britain into submission, do I think the crews were War Criminals ...they like our bomber crews were doing their duty, putting their lives on the line for their beliefs right or wrong only history decides that....Governments ( politicians) declare wars and the public fight them!!!

 

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