Remembering past generations

The son and grandson of one of the Few will be visiting the Battle of Britain Memorial on Monday (30 April) to pay tribute to him and his fellow aircrew en route to their final desination in France, where they will honour an earlier generation of the family.

What makes the trip more challenging is that Joe and Oliver Burns, son and grandson of Battle of Britain veteran Flt Lt Owen Valentine Burns, will be making the 400-plus mile journey by bike.

Joe and Oliver will be finishing their epic ride at Etaples Military Cemetery in northern France on Tuesday 1 May, where they will commemorate the death of Joe’s grandfather (Oliver’s great-grandfather) 100 years ago.

The marathon ride from Birkenhead will mark the death of Sgt Owen Valentine Burns (senior) on 1 May 1918 after he was injured in action towards the end of the First World War.

The two cyclists will visit us here at the National Memorial the previous day to pay their respect to Flt Lt Burns, who died on 30 June 2015, just weeks after being presented to Her Majesty The Queen at the opening of The Wing (see photograph below). They are expected to arrive at midday and will be met there by his widow Deborah, now one of the charity’s trustees, who will accompany them to Etaples.

Joe and Oliver will be starting their 418-mile journey to Etaples on Friday 27 April and will be covering an average of 100 miles each day. They will be accompanied in the support vehicle by Graham Bell, a son-in-law of Owen.

Their ride will start at the Hamilton Square war memorial in Birkenhead, where Sgt Burns is remembered, and take in his regimental museum, the Cheshire Regiment Museum in Chester, en route to the Memorial and Etaples.

The sponsored ride will raise money for the Alzheimers Society, the Dementia Cafe Louth, the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust and other Rotary Club of Louth charities.

The father and son team will stop at the Memorial at midday on 30 April before boarding the ferry to France and the end of their fund-raising journey.

To support Joe and Oliver and help raise money for the Trust, visit

Owen Burns and the Queen


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