The unmistakeable sound of Merlin engines broke the silence above the Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne on Sunday (4 June), as a small group of relatives of ‘the Few’ gathered to pay their respects to the men who fought the Battle of Britain
The small, private event, designed around the Government's Covid-19 restrictions, was organised by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust to mark the 81st anniversary of the start of the Battle on 10 July 1940.
The poignant event, which replaced the usual, larger Memorial Day format, allowed relatives to pay their respects to their loved ones and reflect on the bravery and sacrifice of the men Churchill first named 'the Few'.
While the Spitfire and Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight could only be glimpsed through the low cloud that blanketed the clifftop Memorial, it added greatly to the significance of the annual occasion.
Guest of honour at the Service of Commemoration, which was led by the Trust’s Honorary Chaplain, Air Vice-Marshal the Ven Ray Pentland CB, was Air Vice-Marshal Tam Jennings, Director, Legal Services, RAF, representing the Chief of the Air Staff.
The service, which was followed by a socially distanced afternoon tea in The Wing, now open for visitors from Wednesday to Sunday each week, marked the 81st anniversary of the start of the Battle of Britain.
After the ceremony, relatives laid floral tributes at the foot of the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall, which lists the names of all aircrew known to have taken part in the Battle of Britain. Tom Walker, grandson of Flt Lt William Walker, Spitfire pilot-turned poet, read his grandfather’s poem Our Wall.
“Trustees, staff and volunteers worked hard to come up with a small, private format that would allow relatives to pay their respects to the Few while meeting Covid-19 restrictions, and it turned out to be a suitably moving, commemorative event,” commented Honorary Secretary Gp Capt. Patrick Tootal OBE DL.
Also at the event was the Trust's Young Ambassador, Spitfire fan Jacob Jennings, accompanied by his mum Adele. He was introduced to AVM Jennings during an exciting afternoon for our youngest active supporter.
The Memorial Trust is hoping that Memorial Day, which normally attracts several thousand people, will be able to return in its more usual format next July.