Touching tribute puts Memorial in the spotlight

The Memorial was the scene of national and international attention on Sunday when it was chosen as the centrepiece of a dramatic tribute to those lost in armed conflicts around the world.

A battle scarred WW2 Dakota (Douglas C47 N473DC), accompanied by two Spitfires, circled the Capel-le-Ferne site before dropping three quarters of a million poppies over and around the National Memorial to the Few.

Probably the biggest crowds ever seen at the Memorial watched intently as the three iconic aircraft paid tribute to the fallen on a Remembrance Sunday to remember.

Camera crews from ITV, the BBC and Sky TV beamed coverage back to their respective studios from their vantage point on the balcony of The Wing, while a photographer from the Press Association made sure that Monday’s national newspapers also covered the story.

More photographers and journalists joined military veterans on board the Dakota, which itself took part in troop drops on D-Day and still has bullet holes in its fuselage.

Other photographers flew alongside the three-ship formation in a Harvard as part of the event, which was organised by Aero Legends, which offers flights in and alongside iconic aircraft from Headcorn Aerodrome.

After deciding to drop the 750,000 biodegradable poppy leaves as a mark of respect on Remembrance Sunday, Aero Legends were looking for a suitable location to stage the event – and asked the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust if it could use the National Memorial to the Few as the centrepiece.

“We agreed that the Memorial would be the most appropriate setting for this spectacular tribute to the millions of men and women who have lost their lives in conflicts around the world and down through the years,” said Trustee Andy Simpson.

“Although the event was originally intended to be staged just for the press, news inevitably leaked out and we are grateful for the help of staff, volunteers and some of the trustees who helped manage the huge crowds who wanted to be part of this unique event.

“We are particularly thankful to the parish council and the villagers for being both supportive and patient as the traffic built up around the site. We are aware that we have fantastic neighbours here in Capel-le-Ferne and they excelled themselves on Sunday.”

The Dakota, piloted by Peter Kuypers, dropped the poppies from the Dakota at an altitude of just 500 ft, with a clear-up crew from Aero Legends on standby to make sure they were not left to litter the area. The accompanying Spitfires were flown by Flt Lt Anthony Parkinson and Flt Lt Charlie Brown, who both know the Memorial well.

The five veterans in the Dakota included three former members of the RAF who served during the Second World War, which ended 74 years ago. The Memorial will take centre stage again next year when the Trust will be at the heart of commemorations to mark next year’s 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

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