WHAT TO SEE
The central statue was carved by Harry Gray of the Carving Workshop in Cambridge.
He later revealed that after being asked by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust to create the focal point of the site, he settled on the idea of a pilot but found it difficult to come up with a design he was happy with.
Then one day, during a break, Harry’s trainee sat down and adopted a contemplative pose that provided the sculptor with the inspiration that had previously eluded him.
That lunchtime pose was the blueprint for the statue of the seated airman looking out to sea that is striking in its simplicity yet so moving in its context.
The figure wears an Irvin jacket for a very important reason; by hiding the airman’s uniform it disguises both his nationality and his rank. Is this a British officer with half a dozen kills to his name or an NCO gunner from another country? Both played their part and the Memorial reflects that fact. That same reasoning is behind the fact that the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall reveals neither rank nor decoration.
That central figure sits on a propeller boss surrounded by the badges of all the Allied squadrons and other units that took part in the Battle. The blades of the propeller are set into the ground, making the memorial as striking from the air as it is for the visitor on the ground.
On 9 July 1993, Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother flew in by helicopter to perform the official unveiling ceremony in wet and windy conditions that were again in evidence when her daughter, Her Majesty The Queen, unveiled The Wing on 26 March, 2015. There is a story that in 1993 the helicopter pilot suggested that they should turn back because conditions were so poor. The Queen Mother is reported to have said “My boys never turned back, we will carry on”
The Wing - open daily, 10am to 5pm
The Wing is the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust’s visitor centre at the Capel-le-Ferne site of the National Memorial to the Few, home to The Scramble Experience.
Opened in March, 2015, this eye-catching building was designed by Folkestone architectural practice Godden Allen Lawn in the shape of a Spitfire wing, complete with its famous uplift.
The Wing is not a museum but houses The Scramble Experience, an exciting, hands-on attraction that uses audio-visual effects, a video wall and other special techniques to show something of what the Few experienced in the summer and early autumn of 1940.
As well as the visitor experience, the Wing includes a classroom area that is used to help fulfil the Trust’s mission to educate youngsters, in particular, about the heroism and sacrifice of those who took to the skies above the White Cliffs of Dover in the Battle of Britain. It is called the Geoffrey Page Centre in honour of the man who inspired the building of the Memorial and can also be hired by businesses when not being used by schools.
A first floor ‘cockpit’ area with an open balcony offers superb views across the Channel to France, from where the Luftwaffe would have appeared in 1940. It is home to the Cockpit Cafe, which sells a range of sandwiches, snacks, ice creams, cakes and hot and cold drinks, including alcoholic beverages.
The Wing is also home to a well-stocked souvenir shop.
The Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall is named in tribute to the late Air Chief Marshal Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris, a Hurricane fighter pilot in 1940. He was the first President of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust and, together with Lady Foxley-Norris, provided the funds that allowed the wall to go ahead.
The Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall was unveiled by HRH Prince Michael of Kent in July 2005.
The wall contains the names of all those aircrew known to have flown at least one sortie with an accredited squadron or unit of the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain in 1940, including those who survived the war and, in some cases, only left us in recent years.
The names are listed in alphabetical order, without rank or decoration, highlighting the fact that every one of the Few contributed to the RAF’s victory.
This is the same reason the airmen at the centre of the National Memorial to the Few wears an Irvin jacket to disguise his trade, rank and nationality. He may be an Ace or he could be a Sergeant Pilot who was lost on his first sortie. They all played their part.
At the left hand end of the wall is a brick plinth inset with an inscribed poem by veteran William Walker AE, who died in October 2012 at the age of 99.
The poem, Our Wall, refers to the adjacent wall that list the names of those who flew in the Battle, and it has long been a favourite of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust for that reason.
It was Our Wall, together with William’s other often-recited Absent Friends, that inspired the Trust to create an anthology of William’s poetry, much of which is about his wartime experiences.
William has shared the copyright of the work with the Trust and the proceeds from the sale of the book are all being donated to the charity. It is available to buy from the Trust, both online and in the shop at the site.
Hawker Hurricane Mk 1 Replica US-X
The Hawker Hurricane Mk l replica US-X was generously donated to the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust by the Tory Family Foundation. It represents as precisely as possible the No 56 Squadron aircraft in which 20 year-old Pilot Officer Geoffrey Page was shot down and terribly burned on 12 August 1940.
The Hurricane fighter had been designed under the control of Hawker’s Chief Designer Sydney Camm. The first flight took place on 6 November 1935 and the first operational examples joined No 111 Squadron at Northolt at the end of 1937. During the Battle of Britain there were more Hurricanes in service with Fighter Command than Spitfires and they shot down far more enemy aircraft. In the later years of the war, the Hurricane achieved further fame in its “tank buster” role and it was not until 1947 that the type left squadron service with the RAF.
Geoffrey Page developed a fascination with aircraft and flying as a child, but his ambition to attend the RAF College, Cranwell, was thwarted by his father’s opposition. Instead Geoffrey went to Imperial College, London University, and learned to fly at Northolt with the University Air Squadron. Called up in September 1939, Geoffrey served briefly with No 66 Squadron in 1940 before moving to No56 Squadron.
The squadron was operating from North Weald on 12 August when, following a late afternoon scramble, an attack was made on a German formation reported as “70 plus”. Geoffrey’s Hurricane was hit by return fire.
In his book Shot Down in Flames (originally published as Tales of a Guinea Pig), Geoffrey described the struggle to leave the burning cockpit and then to open his parachute despite the agony of his burns.
“Realising that pain or no pain the ripcord had to be pulled, the brain overcame the reaction of the raw nerve endings and forced the mutilated fingers to grasp the ring and pull firmly,” he wrote.
Rescued from the sea by a tender, which transferred him to the Margate lifeboat, Geoffrey became a founder member of the Guinea Pig Club for RAF personnel who underwent plastic surgery at the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead. Geoffrey eventually returned to operations and became a wing leader before being badly injured again in 1944.
In later years Geoffrey developed a determination that the heroism of his comrades in 1940 should be marked by a national memorial. The construction of the Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne, and its unveiling by Her Late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on 9 July 1993, was largely his achievement.
Wing Commander Geoffrey Page, DSO, OBE, DFC (and bar) died on 5 August 2000, aged 80, shortly after attending the Memorial Day at Capel le Ferne that marked the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
Supermarine Spitfire Mk 1 Replica
The Supermarine Spitfire Mk1 replica represents as precisely as possible the aircraft YT-J, serial number R6675, flown most by Flying Officer Jeffery Quill OBE AFC during his short operational attachment to No 65 Squadron from 6 August to 24 August 1940.
The Spitfire is the most famous fighter ever to serve in the Royal Air Force, and the most famous campaign in which it took part was the Battle of Britain. Designed by Reginald Mitchell, it entered service with the Royal Air Force in May 1938 with No 19 Squadron. By the outbreak of war nine squadrons were equipped with Spitfires, although only four were fully operational. At the start of the Battle of Britain 19 Squadrons in Fighter Command had the fighter.
Amongst the many distinguished pilots associated with the Spitfire, one name stands out above all others, Jeffery Kindersley Quill, OBE AFC. Born on 1 February 1913 at Littlehampton in Sussex, Quill was educated at Lancing College before joining the RAF. His ab initio training was on Avro Tutors at No. 3 Flying Training School, Grantham, where he also undertook advanced flying on the Armstrong Whitworth Siskin Mk IIIA.
With the pilot rating ‘Exceptional’ stamped in his logbook, he was posted to No 17 Squadron at Upavon to fly Bristol Bulldogs. At Grantham Quill had shown a natural aptitude for instrument flying and his next posting was to the Meteorological Flight at Duxford, where he became its CO in November 1934. Back on Siskins, he had the misfortune to crash-land on 14 March 1935 in marginal weather conditions, resulting in the almost inevitable ‘Siskin nose’, which only served to aggravate a condition acquired earlier while boxing for the RAF.
In November 1935 he left the RAF to become assistant to ‘Mutt’ Summers, the Chief Test Pilot at Vickers (Aviation). On 5 March 1936, Quill flew Summers to Eastleigh in the company’s Miles Falcon so that Summers could carry out the first flight in the F.37/34 fighter. Quill did not have to wait long to fly it himself and carried out his own maiden flight in Spitfire K5054 on 26 March. Over the next 12 years Quill flew every version of the Spitfire, right up to the Seafire Mk 47 in 1946.
Such was his dedication that he managed to secure an attachment to No 65 Squadron at Hornchurch in August 1940 at the height of the Battle of Britain. He wanted to obtain operational experience and appreciate more fully what the Spitfire needed to be able to do and find ways of eradicating its few shortcomings. He also had a deep desire to fight for his country. On 16 August he shot down a Messerchmitt Bf 109E fighter and two days later shared in the destruction of a Heinkel He 111 bomber.
Quill was Chief Test Pilot of Supermarine until 1947, when he was forced to retire on medical grounds. Thereafter he undertook various ground-based tasks with Vickers and the British Aircraft Corporation involving the development of the TSR2, Jaguar and Tornado, culminating in the role of Director of Marketing at Panavia. He died on 20 February 1996, aged 83.
See the site from the air – in a Spitfire!
You’ve seen the awe-inspiring sight and heard the unforgettable sound of a Spitfire, the iconic fighter aircraft that helped win the Battle of Britain in 1940.
And now, thanks to our friends at the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar, you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fly in a two-seater version of arguably the best-looking aircraft ever invented – and help the Trust at the same time.
Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar offers a range of superb Spitfire flights across Kent – usually taking in the impressive sight of the Battle of Britain Memorial from the air – and they have now agreed to make a donation to the Trust for every passenger that books via the link at the top of this page.
You don’t need to do anything special to help raise valuable funds for the Trust. Just take up this opportunity to achieve your lifetime’s ambition (isn’t it everyone’s?) to fly in one of these classic aircraft and click the button to go through to the booking site. Technology will do the rest; you will have helped the Trust while lining yourself up for a unique experience.
Just click the logo at the top of the page – or follow this link.
The ultimate added extra!
The National Memorial to the Few is an important focus for all those who are involved in vintage aviation, and a place where they are keen to show their respects – from the air as well as when visiting.
Not surprisingly, then, the pilots of Spitfires and other aircraft that offer pleasure flights in two-seater aircraft from local airfields regularly include the Memorial here at Capel-le-Ferne in their flight plans.
That’s great news for anyone on the ground during good weather in the spring, summer and early autumn as it gives visitors a chance to see these magnificent aircraft as they overfly the clifftop site.
We can’t promise you will see and hear a Spitfire as it roars past the Memorial, but with both the Biggin Hill Heritage Hanger and Headcorn-based Aero Legends including us in their flight plans, you have a great chance to doing so, particularly when the weather is fine.
And if watching these superb aircraft from the ground isn’t enough for you, the Biggin Hill Heritage Hanger makes a donation to the Trust on behalf of any passenger that books a flight using the link at the top of this page. This is your chance to tick one thing off your bucket list and help the Trust at the same time!
Just click the logo – or this link.
The Scramble Experience
Our high-tech interactive Scramble Experience is a fantastic way to learn more about the Battle of Britain and bring the rest of the site to life.
At the heart of our hands-on, interactive Experience is a unique film created especially for the Trust which helps to show just what life was like for the Few in the summer of 1940. The film is so moving that one member of the Few was close to tears after watching it for the first time.
The Experience also has lots of hands-on things to do for youngsters, including a chance to shoot down enemy aircraft on the big screen from the seat of a mock-up Hurricane. For older visitors, a series of interactive panels offers a wealth of in-depth information about the Battle, the men who fought it and the systems and people that supported them.
The touch screen panels contain a huge amount of information, making the Experience ideal for researchers looking for detailed information as well as for youngsters and those who just want an overview of the Battle that changed history.
The Wing is also home to an online database that holds information on all those aircrew known to have taken part in the Battle. A touchscreen allows access to a virtual copy of Men of the Battle of Britain, Kenneth G Wynn’s ultimate guide to those who took part, now owned by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust.
The Beaverbrook Wall
Visitors to the Battle of Britain Memorial are greeted by a low, curved, stone wall on which is inscribed Churchill’s famous line: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed, by so many, to so few.”
The Beaverbrook Wall was unveiled by the late Vi, Lady Aitken, wife of the late Sir Max Aitken Bt, DSO, DFC, who served in Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain in 1940 and went on to earn a distinguished war record.
Churchill’s line, included in a speech he gave to the House of Commons on 20 August 1940, at the height of the Battle of Britain, struck a chord with the nation – and the men who fought in the Battle have been known as the Few ever since.
Bob the Dog
Many RAF squadrons had a dog as a mascot or merely as a station pet, and the Memorial Trust is no exception. Our dog, which doubles as a collecting box and sits obediently at the foot of the Biggin Hill yardarm, is called BoB – for obvious reasons.
South Kent College Wall
This impressive addition to the site, unveiled in 2001, was designed by staff and built by brickwork students at South Kent College. The brickwork tribute is so striking that in the early days of the Memorial some visitors thought it was the National Memorial to the Few, which prompted the Trust to add signage pointing across the car park to the actual Memorial.
The Biggin Hill Yardarm
The flagpole at the Memorial is technically a “yardarm”, reflecting the RAF’s pride in its historic links with the Royal Navy.
The yardarm was one of the earliest of the additional items to be installed at the site following the unveiling of the National Memorial to the Few by Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 1993.
It was bought from RAF Biggin Hill, where it used to stand, by Mr Savvas Constantinides, who had been planning to ship it home to Cyprus. He was instead persuaded by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust to donate it to the clifftop site at Capel-le-Ferne, where it was installed just a few months after the unveiling of the Memorial itself.
The RAF Ensign and Union Flag are flown from the yardarm daily, while on special occasions such as Memorial Day in July and Battle of Britain Day on 15 September, the flags of all the nations represented in the Battle are flown. Equally importantly, the Ensign is flown at half-mast when one of the Few passes away.
Lord Dowding Bust
One of the country’s most visionary leaders during the Battle of Britain is remembered at the far end of the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall, where Lord Dowding’s bust now sits alongside that of Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park.
The bust of Lord Dowding, who, as Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, led RAF Fighter Command throughout the Battle of Britain in 1940, was carved by Will Davies, the sculptor who also created the adjacent bust of Sir Keith Park.
It was unveiled on Wed 31 May 2017 by His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent GCVO, who was accompanied by guests including Wing Commander Paul Farnes DFM, one of the Few.
Dowding was at the head of Fighter Command following its formation in 1936, and was responsible for this country’s air defence system, including radio direction finding (radar), Observer Corps posts and control rooms. It was these innovations, together with the bravery and sacrifice of the aircrew and those who supported them, which led to the RAF’s victory in the Battle of Britain.
Also at the unveiling was Odette, Lady Dowding, the daughter-in-law of Lord Dowding and widow of the late Wing Commander Derek Dowding, another of the Few.
Visitors will notice that while the bust of Sir Keith is looking out to where the battle was fought. Lord Dowding’s head is turned towards the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall, on which members of the Few – his “chicks” – are listed.
Sir Keith Park Bust
The 70th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of Britain in 2010 included the unveiling of a bust of Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park at Capel-le-Ferne.
The bust, which can be seen at the right hand end of the Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall, was carved by Sculptor Will Davies and unveiled in October by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, Patron of the War Memorials Trust.
Sir Keith, who commanded the RAF’s No 11 Group Fighter Command – the squadrons that bore the brunt of the Battle of Britain – has been credited as one of the men whose leadership and vision helped to deny the Luftwaffe victory.
Now the Trust’s library and resource centre, Hunting Lodge has given distinguished service over many years as a vital part of the Memorial site at Capel-le-Ferne.
It was opened in 1995 as the Trust’s first visitor centre, thanks to funding provided by the late Clive Hunting, a cousin of the Trust’s current chairman, Richard Hunting CBE.
In those days a ‘lodge’ in the true sense, it served ice creams, teas and coffees through a window, with no space for visitors inside the building. Later a conservatory-style extension was added, providing a welcome for visitors during inclement weather and also providing limited shop space.
The opening of The Wing by Her Majesty The Queen accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh in 2015 meant it was no longer needed as a visitor centre, and so in 2018, after an extensive rebuild, it re-opened as a modern, well-equipped library and resource centre.