A major public memorial to commemorate the tragic loss of 55,573 young Bomber Command airmen in the Second World War has been unveiled by the Queen at a ceremony in Green Park, London.
The event brought together thousands of Bomber Command veterans, their widows and other family members from all over the world to remember the bravery and sacrifice of their lost relatives and comrades.
The memorial also commemorates the people of all nations who lost their lives in the bombing campaigns of 1939-1945, with an inscription remembering that loss.
During the 30-minute ceremony, Her Majesty The Queen unveiled a nine-foot-high (2.7m) bronze sculpture depicting seven Bomber Command aircrew.
The ceremony ended with a flypast of five RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft crewed by today’s Royal Air Force followed by the RAF’s last flying Lancaster Bomber, which dropped poppies over Green Park in remembrance of all those Bomber Command aircrew who lost their lives.
Bomber Command veteran Alan Biffen, aged 87, attended the dedication and unveiling ceremony. He joined Bomber Command in 1944 and flew on 10 missions.
I find it difficult to emphasise even to my grandchildren what the Bomber Command Memorial means to me. Sometimes I look back and wonder ‘did it all really happen?’
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. Many of them were boys.
I myself added a year to my age at 16 so that I could join the Air Force.
The memorial comes after five years of campaigning by the Bomber Command Association, and for many veterans and family members it represents closure and a long-awaited acknowledgement of the significant contribution made by the 125,000 men who served in Bomber Command during the Second World War.
The Bomber Command Memorial Fund secured funding from members of the public and private donors to cover the costs of the planning and construction of the memorial.
The major benefactors who contributed to the construction costs are John Caudwell, Lord Ashcroft and Richard Desmond.
Veteran Dennis Wiltshire, 93, who served in Bomber Command between 1939 and 1945, said:
The 55,573 Bomber Command aircrew have always been in my mind. In truth, at this age, I never expected to see this memorial being built, so it is such a relief that it has come after almost 70 years of waiting.
The fellas are still gone but this means that families have a place to come and pay their respects, and will hopefully give younger people a better understanding of Bomber Command and the sacrifice that was made.
The RAF’s leading welfare charity, the RAF Benevolent Fund, will take over guardianship of the memorial and will ensure that it continues to be a lasting tribute to the men who gave their lives serving in Bomber Command and a symbol of peace and reconciliation for future generations.
Air Marshal Sir Robert Wright, RAF Benevolent Fund Controller, said:
We are honoured to take on the guardianship of this memorial. This means a great deal to the RAF serving personnel and veterans we support every day.
Our work and our programme of education and engagement will ensure that the memorial’s significance continues to be understood by future generations as part of the debt we owe to members of the Royal Air Force past and present.