Duke at­tends Bat­tle of Bri­tain din­ner

Roy­alty the guest of hon­our at 75th an­niver­sary event

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - By Kather­ine Cle­men­tine kather­ine.cle­men­tine@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

The Uxbridge Gazette Se­ries THE Duke of Kent was the guest of hon­our at a din­ner to mark the 75th an­niver­sary of the Bat­tle of Bri­tain last week.

Tributes to the brave air­men who fought and in some cases died in the decisive Sec­ond World War bat­tle were led by the Duke at the gath­er­ing at RAF Northolt.

Two his­toric Spitfires and a Hur­ri­cane put on a dis­play for the vet­er­ans, fol­lowed by the ma­jes­tic Sunset Cer­e­mony by the Queen’s Colour Squadron.

Ge­of­frey Wel­lum, who joined 92 Squadron at RAF Northolt in May 1940, aged just 18, flew a Spit­fire in the Bat­tle of Bri­tain.

It was the brave ac­tions of Squadron Leader Wel­lum and his com­rades that, as Churchill said, ‘cast a glit­ter­ing shield’ to pro­tect Great Bri­tain dur­ing those fate­ful sum­mer days of 1940.

Squadron Leader Wel­lum, said: “You ac­cepted los­ing friends. It was a per­sonal thing how you went about miss­ing ab­sent friends. If you let your imag­i­na­tion run with it you could get shot down. In the end you ac­cepted it, it was in­evitable.

“But at 19 years old you can­not go to war in a Spit­fire and for­get about it. It stays with you for all time.”

The bat­tle in­volved nearly 3,000 air­crew from more than 70 squadrons be­tween July and Oc­to­ber 1940.

The cost of the bat­tle was high – 544 lost their lives and a fur­ther 814 died be­fore the end of the war. Of those 3,000 air­men, de­scribed by Win­ston Churchill as ‘ The Few,’ only a hand­ful still sur­vive 75 years on from those fate­ful sum­mer days.

Group Cap­tain David Man­ning, RAF Northolt’s sta­tion com­man­der, said: “The Bat­tle of Bri­tain was not only a defin­ing event for the Royal Air Force, it was a piv­otal event in our coun­try’s history. The na­tion owes a huge debt, not only to The Few, but to the whole force that con­trib­uted to win­ning the bat­tle.”

The com­mem­o­ra­tive din­ner, held at the RAF’s last re­main­ing Bat­tle of Bri­tain sta­tion, was or­gan­ised by the Royal Air Force, the RAF Benev­o­lent Fund and the RAF Mu­seum.

Air Mar­shal Chris Nick­ols, RAF Benev­o­lent Fund Con­troller, said: “So many of the Bat­tle of Bri­tain vet­er­ans have passed on, ei­ther dur­ing the war or in the years fol­low­ing, that The Few are now very few in­deed. It was our hon­our to welcome these vet­er­ans, all now well into their 90s, back to RAF Northolt and to share in this in­cred­i­bly mov­ing trib­ute to them and all who served in the Bat­tle. We are for­ever in their debt.”

Another Bat­tle of Bri­tain vet­eran, Sergeant Stan Har­till, said: “I was truly touched to be at Northolt, along with my fel­low vet­er­ans and so many from the RAF fam­ily and to know just how much our ser­vice is still ap­pre­ci­ated, even af­ter all these years – I just can’t ex­press how much it means to me.”

n BRAVE AIR­MEN: (Clock­wise from above) Sgt Stan Har­till, W/Cmd Paul Farnes, Sq Ldr Ge­of­frey Wel­lum, Sq Ldr Tony Pickering and FO Ken Wilkin­son; HRH Duke of Kent with Sq Ldr Ge­of­frey Wel­lum and Fl Lt Adam Osprowski, Pol­ish Airforce; the RAF band while air­craft take part in a fly­past; Queens Colour Squadron pic­tured with a Spit­fire Photos by An­thony Up­ton/Imagewise

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