Duke attends Battle of Britain dinner
Royalty the guest of honour at 75th anniversary event
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