In Lincon, the RAF Bomber Command celebrates its 85th anniversary with a flypast for veterans.
They came from all over, bonded by a shared sense of duty and a desire to pay tribute to their fallen friends. Survivors of Bomber Command paraded Thursday to commemorate the 85th anniversary of the command’s inception. They were all in their mid-nineties.
As eyes looked skywards for the flypast by the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Dakota paratrooper transport plane, a veteran of the Second World War, a few tears welled up.
Bomber Command was crucial in defeating the Nazis, carrying out frequent bombing assaults on German targets – but at a horrific cost: 57,861 personnel died, with an average age of 23.
A total of 8,403 people were injured, while 9,838 people were apprehended.
Nothing, however, was going to prohibit survivors from attending the ceremony at the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln yesterday.
The complex, which opened three years ago, was built with the help of £140,000 given by Daily Express readers. A steel spire stands at the center, with a height of 101 feet, equaling the wingspan of a Lancaster bomber.
Panels featuring the names of Bomber Command personnel who perished during the war surround it.
A museum and an archive of over four million log items, including crew logbooks and interviews, are also part of the £16 million site. The laying of wreaths was part of an emotional 45-minute service held yesterday.
“It is necessary to commemorate those we lost,” Peter Francis, 95, a Halifax rear gunner on one of the last raids on Germany, said as he traveled from his Cornwall home.
Peter flew with 171 Squadron from RAF North Creake, Norfolk, when the war ended, when he was only 19 years old.
“I was supposed to travel on a special mission from Lossiemouth, Scotland, but I was on leave,” he explained.
My spot was taken by John ‘Jock’ Downie. He died as a result of a mid-flight collision. His name is now carved into the stone.”
Bert Hammond, 96, a former Lancaster gunner who now resides in Leasingham, made the short trek to pay tribute to his friends Richard Duffield and George Chapman, whom he had followed into the RAF.
“Neither of them made it back,” Bert replied. “All I wanted to do was come here and look at their names.”
The complex was built in Lincolnshire since the county was home to 27 wartime Bomber Command sites, more than a third of the total.
According to Bomber, the company’s CEO is Nicky van der Drift. “Brinkwire News in Condensed Form.”