Our tribute to the one of this country’s most visionary leaders during the Battle of Britain was unveiled by His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent GCVO during a short ceremony at which he was joined by Trustees, staff and volunteers on Wednesday.
Lord Dowding, who, as Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, led RAF Fighter Command throughout the Battle in 1940, played a huge part in the RAF’s victory over the Luftwaffe. After taking on the top job in 1936, he had put in place the air defence system which made effective use of radio direction finding – the forerunner of radar – and revolutionised the country’s defences.
Joining Prince Michael at the ceremony was Wing Commander Paul Farnes DFM, one of the Few, and Odette, Lady Dowding, the daughter-in-law of Lord Dowding and widow of the late Wing Commander Derek Dowding, son of Lord Dowding and another of the Few.
The bust was carved by Will Davies, the same sculptor who created the bust of Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park which stands nearby, close to the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall which lists the names of all those who flew in the Battle. While Sir Keith is looking out towards France and an impending air attack, Lord Dowding is looking towards the names of the men he addressed as “My Dear Fighter Boys”.
Prince Michael is Patron of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust and a great supporter of the work it does to preserve the memory of the men who won what is now recognised as one of the most important battles fought by this country in the last century. He later posed for a family-style photograph with volunteer helpers, staff and Trustees in front of the Memorial Wall.
The Royal visitor was also shown the work being carried out at the moment to convert the site’s original visitor centre, Hunting Lodge, into a library and resource centre.
Trust chairman Richard Hunting CBE commented: “In paying tribute to Sir Keith Park and now Lord Dowding, the Trust is recognising that their brilliant leadership and determination ensured that there would not be an invasion of Britain in the Second World War.
“Lord Dowding was responsible for the air defence system which proved so decisive and included Observer Corps posts and control rooms as well as radio direction finding. It was these innovations, together with the heroism of the aircrew and those who supported them, which led to the RAF’s victory.”
Lord Dowding died in 1970 at his home in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. His ashes were buried in the RAF Chapel at Westminster Abbey, where members of The Few have traditionally paid tribute to him every September.