A Roll of Honour which lists all those members of the Auxiliary Air Force and Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF) who died in service has been dedicated at St Clement Danes, the Central Church of the RAF.
Serving members of the RAuxAF joined veterans and families to pay their respects to the 1,100 killed in action in the Second World War, Iraq and Afghanistan. Among those attending the service were former Whitley pilot 91-year-old Alex Lawrence and several members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.
They were joined by His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester, patron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Foundation, who sponsored the function with funding from the RAF Charitable Trust and the RAF Central Fund.
Mark Francois, Minister of State for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, also at the service, said:
I am privileged to be here today attending this service of dedication of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Roll of Honour. The proud history of our Armed Forces is built on its people - the magnificent example of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force is as fine as any in the land - and cannot be forgotten.
Men and women who leave civilian employment to defend the United Kingdom and her interests around the world continue to serve as an inspiration to us all. To read and reflect on the long list of names of those who have fallen in the service of the country is a moving experience.
Our growing RAF Reserve Squadrons of today are of equal importance as their forebears, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Regular RAF, at home and on our operations overseas.
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, also paid tribute to RAuxAF personnel past and present:
The Roll of Honour dedicated today recognises the bravery and sacrifice made by all those members of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force who paid the ultimate price on operations across the globe from the Second World War, in the Balkans, to free Iraq, and right through to current operations in Afghanistan.
During the Battle of Britain, the contribution of the Auxiliary flying squadrons, balloon squadrons and fighter controllers was crucial in achieving victory and the Royal Air Force and the country are forever in their debt.
The unique ethos and spirit of these wartime auxiliaries can be found today in the modern Royal Auxiliary Air Force whose personnel form a vital part of front line RAF operations around the world.
The Royal Air Force Reserves, of which the Auxiliaries today form part, bring with them skills and experience which both complement and enhance those of our regular personnel, and, together with both our civilian counterparts and industry contractors, form a highly and adaptable capable force ready to meet future Defence challenges.
During the service the Roll of Honour was carried forward by Squadron Leader Jeff Metcalfe, Officer Commanding 609 (West Riding) Squadron.
Sat on either side of the aisle were two widows who lost their husbands 65 years apart. In February 1944, Joan Davies’ husband, Flight Lieutenant Richard Morgan, died when the Spitfire he was piloting crashed due to battle damage; Jacqui Thompson lost husband Senior Aircraftman Gary Thompson in April 2008 in Afghanistan. Both served in 504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron.
A reading was also given by Geoff Dunsmore, father of Senior Aircraftman Christopher Dunsmore who died in action in Iraq in July 2007.
Speaking for the current members of the RAuxAF, Inspector Royal Auxiliary Air Force, Group Captain Gary Bunkell, said:
All those who serve in today’s Royal Auxiliary Air Force are very conscious of the sacrifice and achievements of those who have gone before us. The listing of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in our own Roll of Honour is humbling and a mark of our unique heritage and identity.
The service was conducted by the Venerable Ray Pentland, Chaplain-in-Chief of the RAF, with music provided by the Central Band of the RAF under the direction of the Principal Director of Music, Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs, and the Choir of St Clement Danes.
The Sovereign’s Colour of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force was also laid up at the service, a new Colour having been presented to the RAuxAF in July 2010 by Her Majesty The Queen.