The extraordinary feats of the RAF’s Battle of Britain heroes, who fought to save Britain from a Nazi invasion 75 years ago, were honoured during a special service at Westminster Abbey today
The extraordinary feats of the RAF’s Battle of Britain heroes, who fought to save Britain from a Nazi invasion 75 years ago, were honoured during a special service at Westminster Abbey today [Sunday, 20 September].
The Service of Thanksgiving and Rededication, led by The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster, saw veterans parade through the Abbey with the Battle of Britain Roll of Honour – listing the 2,936 aircrew who fought in the Battle – and included readings from RAF personnel including Chaplain-in-Chief, The Venerable Jonathan Chaffey, and others. The Prince of Wales was among guests paying respects to those who fought – including seven of the surviving veterans present – along with political and military dignitaries, RAF personnel and members of the public.
After the service The Prince joined a reception with veterans and their families at nearby Church House. His Royal Highness then watched a display by the Band of the RAF Regiment and a continuity drill by Queen’s Colour Squadron, which ended in a ‘75’ shape to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle. Onlookers were then treated to a six-ship flypast over the Abbey, as two Hurricanes and four Spitfires from RAF Coningsby’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight roared overhead.
The special service is held on Battle of Britain Sunday each year and commemorates the huge sacrifices of Battle of Britain aircrew, as well as the men and women supporting them in various ground roles. The Battle was one of the most significant and pivotal in British history, running from July to October 1940, and was the first fought wholly in the air, as the RAF fought to save Britain from a German invasion. 544 aircrew paid the ultimate price and died during the Battle, with a further 791 dying before the end of the War. Yet thanks to the staggering, selfless efforts of The Few – from Britain, the Commonwealth, Allied and some neutral nations – and the men and women who supported them, the Battle of Britain saw the Nazis suffer their first significant strategic loss. The RAF’s victory enabled the western Allies to later liberate Western Europe and compel the Nazis to fight on two fronts, leading to their consequent defeat.