Bomber Command memorial unveiled

Thu, Jun 28, 2012, 01:00

Second World War veterans from Britain and around the world gathered today to see the British queen dedicate and unveil a memorial to tens of thousands of airmen who died in the Second World War.

 

The Bomber Command Memorial in London’s Green Park remembers 55,573 RAF crew who lost their lives in the conflict.

More than 5,000 surviving airmen joined the queen, the duke of Edinburgh and other members of the British royal family in Green Park for the unveiling of a memorial featuring a 9ft bronze sculpture depicting a seven-man bomber crew returning from a mission.

The Portland stone memorial also has been given the blessing of the German people, after an inscription was included that commemorating all the lives lost in the bombings of 1939-45.

Dudley Hannaford (88) who came from Sydney, Australia for the service, told how he served as a wireless operator on Lancaster bombers flying out of RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

“I had 18 operations over Germany and I was shot down on the 18th, he said.

“I joined up with the pilot and we tried to evade capture, which we did for 16 days, but we ran out of food and had to give ourselves up.

“It was quite near the end of the war anyway, and I was in a prisoner of war camp near Munich when I was released and repatriated.”

He said today’s occasion was “absolutely wonderful”.

“It makes me think of release and victory. I only played a very small part in that, but it is something to be very thankful for.”

Other veterans came from Canada and New Zealand. As well as the bronze sculpture, the memorial’s roof is inspired by a Vickers Wellington aircraft and incorporates sections of aluminium recovered from a Handley Page Halifax III bomber shot down over Belgium on May 12, 1944, killing eight crew.

It will be handed over to the RAF Benevolent Fund to maintain.

Briton Les Ellingham (89) from Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, told how he was a wireless operator on Stirling bombers flying out of RAF Oakington in Cambridgeshire in 1942 and 1943.

“It was a job which we had to do,” he said.

“I got shot down over Belgium on June 21, 1943, and was on foot in Belgium and Holland, tying to escape, but was finally caught in France.”

He said he was taken to Stalag IV-B near Mulhberg, 30 miles from Dresden in eastern Germany.

“It wasn’t that great, but I had to stay there until the end of the war,” he added.

The project initially raised concerns in the city of Dresden, where 25,000 civilians were killed in Allied bombing raids in 1945.

Heike Grossmann, spokeswoman for the mayor of Dresden, Helma Orosz, said the inscription to all those who died was “a further gesture of reconciliation between Britain and Germany”.

“We are close friends with people in Britain, we are twinned with Coventry, and at first we were surprised that the memorial was being constructed,” she said.

“Our mayor raised concerns when she happened to be at an exhibition in London and met London mayor Boris Johnson.

“The inscription is a further gesture of reconciliation between Britain and Germany.”

Councillor Alastair Moss, of Westminster council, which granted planning permission to the project, defended the memorial.

 He said: “Since our decision, this memorial has been the subject of controversy by a vocal minority who have unfortunately distracted from its significance.

“We believe Westminster Council was absolutely right to grant consent for a monument which reflects what the majority of today’s public want to say about bravery, sacrifice and suffering.”

PA