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RAF centenary: Thousands watch flypast

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  • RAF at 100
media captionA flypast of aircraft marks the centenary of the Royal Air Force

Thousands of people have gathered outside Buckingham Palace to watch a flypast of aircraft to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force.

Almost 100 planes representing the RAF over the years flew over The Mall following a parade by personnel.

The Queen and other members of the Royal Family saw the display - which included the new F-35 fighter and Spitfires - from the palace balcony.

Earlier they marked the centenary at a special service in Westminster Abbey.

The service began what the head of the RAF said would be a "tremendous" day of events to mark its 100 years.

Three F-35 Lightning stealth fighters were involved in the flypast and 22 Typhoons spelt out 100 as they flew over the palace.

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Nine helicopters led the armada, while the Red Arrows brought up the rear.

The aircraft assembled in holding patterns off the coast of East Anglia before merging near Ipswich and flying down the A12 corridor to London.

image captionThree of the RAF's new F-35 Lightning fighters flew over the capital
image captionThe Red Arrows brought the flypast to a close
image captionThousands of people gathered on The Mall
image captionSeven of the nine Tornados in the flypast - the aircraft is due to be retired from the RAF in 2019
image copyrightReuters
image captionThe spectacle in the sky was met with applause from the crowds

According to the Met Police, an estimated 65,000 to 70,000 people gathered on The Mall to watch the parade and flypast, with roads in central London being closed until 17:00 BST.

Gallantry praised

Surrounded by other members of the Royal Family, the Queen presented a new Queen's Colour to the RAF in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace before moving to the balcony.

In a brief speech, she congratulated the RAF for a "remarkable contribution to defence" over the last 100 years, saying "tenacity, skill and gallantry" had been its hallmarks.

She added: "I remember the Battle of Britain being fought over the skies above us and we shall never forget the courage and sacrifice of that time."

image copyrightPA
image captionThe Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived together for the service earlier in the day
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe Queen called today "a very special day" and said the RAF's "courage and sacrifice" will never be forgotten
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe number "100" was spelt out in the sky by 22 Typhoon jets in their biggest ever formation

The Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service merged to create the RAF on 1 April 1918 - the world's first independent air force.

In his address at Westminster Abbey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, said the RAF had played a "decisive factor in saving this country's independence, its democracy and its freedom; its hope of civilisation and its contribution to humanity for the future".

He added: "It is also right to remember with sorrow and again profound thanksgiving the scores of thousands who have given their lives in service as part of the RAF."

Wreaths laid

The Queen, who did not attend Prince Louis' christening on Monday, was at the service along with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke of York, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Retired and serving members of the RAF were also there, along with the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, and politicians including Prime Minister Theresa May, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Princes William wore the No 1 uniform of the Royal Air Force, and his RAF wings, in recognition that he is a qualified RAF pilot.

The Duke of Sussex's uniform carried RAF Regiment shoulder flashes in recognition of the home of the RAF, Honington, and his role as Honorary Air Commandant of the base.

media captionPaul Farnes on what it was like to fly in the Battle of Britain
image captionA new Queen's Colour was presented to the RAF in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace
image copyrightReuters
image captionThe Duchess of Cambridge is still on maternity leave but felt it was important to attend the celebrations
image captionThe Royal Family watched the flypast from the balcony of Buckingham Palace
image copyrightEPA
image captionThe RAF was formed out of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service, which merged in 1918
image copyrightRick Cuthbert
image captionThe surveillance aircraft - the Rivet Joint - was also in the flypast
image captionThe prime minister gave a reading at the service
image captionWreaths were laid at the RAF Memorial
image captionMore than 2,200 people crowded into Westminster Abbey for the service
image captionPrime Minister Theresa May, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also attended

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