An awe-inspiring flypast by a Lancaster bomber, followed closely by a lone Spitfire, was the breathtaking centrepiece to the 70th anniversary tribute to the airmen of the Battle of Britain in the summer of 2010.
In what became a very special summer of remembrance, it was the events at Capel-le-Ferne on Sunday 11 July that caught the nation’s attention, held as they were on those famous the white cliffs between Dover and Folkestone.
A record-breaking crowd estimated at around 5,000 braved the heat of a glorious summer’s day to pay their tributes to those who defended this country from invasion in 1940.
The national and local press, meanwhile, were out in force, broadcasting the parade and service at the national memorial to millions more people at home and abroad and providing coverage in scores of newspapers and magazines.
“We set out to make this year special and I am delighted that both the numbers attending and the coverage we received from the media were as good as we had hoped for,” commented Battle of Britain Memorial Trust chairman Richard Hunting CBE.
If the Lancaster and Spitfire took centre stage in the air, it was the 19 members of Churchill’s ‘the Few’ who were in the spotlight on the ground.
The event was attended by Flight Lieutenant A N R L Appleford, Pilot Officer N M Brown, Flight Lieutenant O V Burns, Group Captain B Drake DSO DFC, Wing Commander P Farnes DFM, Wing Commander R W Foster DFC AE, Flight Lieutenant W J Green, Squadron Leader T C Iveson DFC AE, Flight Lieutenant R L Jones, Wing Commander T M Kane, Flight Lieutenant K Lawrence DFC, Squadron Leader P G Leggett, Wing Commander T F Neil DFC* AFC AE, Squadron Leader T G Pickering AE, Squadron Leader S N Rose AE, Squadron Leader M T Wainwright AFC, Flight Lieutenant W L B Walker AE, Squadron Leader G H A Wellum DFC and Flying Officer K A Wilkinson.
Guest of honour at the event was the Trust’s Patron, HRH Prince Michael of Kent GCVO, who was joined by the most senior figure in the Royal Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton KCB, Chief of the Air Staff.
Sir Stephen was introduced by the Trust’s President, Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon GCB CBE, who highlighted the appeal for funds to build the new learning centre planned for the Capel-le-Ferne site.
On parade and providing a brilliant splash of colour in the sunshine were 77 standards from veterans’ organisations from across the country.
Also marching proudly in the parade were cadets from Kent Wing Air Training Corps, together with representatives of the Sea Cadet Corps and the Army Cadet Force, invited to commemorate this year’s Cadet 150 celebrations.
After the service of commemoration led by the Venerable (AVM) Ray Pentland, Chaplain-in-Chief of the Royal Air Force, with the Reverend Sue White, Priest of St. Radigunds, Capel-le-Ferne, and the Reverend (Flight Lieutenant) Matthew Buchan RAuxAF, Priest of St Peter and St Paul, Leybourne, wreaths were laid at the Memorial.
The veterans then laid personal tributes at the Memorial Wall named in honour of the late Air Chief Marshal Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris, a Hurricane fighter pilot in 1940 and first President of the Trust.
The day’s music was provided by the Central Band of the Royal Air Force and the Kent Wing ATC Band, while the crowd was silenced for a second time when a Spitfire of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight returned for a solo display. The expected Hawker Hurricane was unable to attend because of technical difficulties.
The day’s celebrations ended with a Sunset Ceremony that featured the Air Cadets standing proudly with their standards on the grassy bank behind the Christopher Foxley Norris Memorial Wall, itself flanked by the veterans’ standards.
To the music of The Evening Hymn, played by the RAF Central Band, all the standards were dipped in salute as the RAF Ensign was lowered by the Cadet colour party.