Three members of the Few again took part in the annual commemorations to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Britain, when they and their colleagues defended these shores from the threat of a Nazi invasion.
Wing Commander Paul Farnes DFM and Flying Officer Ken Wilkinson AE led a short commemoration at the Battle of Britain Monument on the Embankment in London at the start of a weekend of events that marked the 76th anniversary of the heroism and sacrifice of 1940.
They were joined the next day (Sunday 18 September) by Wing Commander John ‘Tim’ Elkington at Westminster Abbey for a short, private service in the RAF Chapel.
The chapel houses the ashes of Air Chief Marshal The Lord Dowding of Bentley Priory, and the service include a tribute to the man who was Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain.
The Few are the aircrew who qualified for the Battle of Britain clasp to the 1939-45 Star. They are all members of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association, an organisation that is now being supported and administered by The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust.
Saturday’s service at the Battle of Britain Monument was conducted by the Chaplain of both the Fighter Association and the Trust, the Venerable (AVM) Ray Pentland CB. Widows, relatives and friends were present alongside members of the public.
The RAF Service of Thanksgiving and Rededication at Westminster Abbey was led by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall.
He said: “Once again we come together on Battle of Britain Sunday in this House of Kings and House of Prayer to give thanks for the dedication and heroism of members of the Royal Air Force and the allied air forces in that remarkable struggle for air supremacy over Britain in October 1940. Their courage marked a turning point in the war, for without their bravery it is hard to see how the Second World War could have been won.
“As we reflect today on their gallantry and fortitude, we remember all who have served and still serve in the Royal Air Force. We honour all who fight in the service of freedom; we express penitence for the suffering and destruction caused by armed conflicts; and we renew our commitment to work for justice, freedom, and decency.”
The service included an Act of Remembrance during which the Battle of Britain Roll of Honour was carried from the Grave of the Unknown Warrior to the Sacrarium by the Battle of Britain veterans, sons of the veterans and serving Royal Air Force pilots and aircrew.
The Dean later led an Act of Rededication “to building a world where there is justice and peace for all, and where women, men and children live a life of full human dignity”.
Following the Service the veterans and their relatives and friends were entertained at a Reception held by the Air Force Board and witnessed a flypast by a Spitfire and Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.