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Thread: BOMBER COMMAND Memorial event 28th June 2012

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    Default BOMBER COMMAND Memorial event 28th June 2012

    My elderly friend, whose RAF husband was a member of 460 sqdn RAAF ,shot down over Denmark 4/9/43 in Lancaster EE138, attended the BC Memorial last thursday and has written an account of the event for anyone who is interested ?

    The London taxi drivers drove veterans to the Memorial free of charge !

    Anne

    A Day to Remember
    We arrived at Victoria Station in London . It was thronged with commuters but amongst them were many unusual sights. Elderly ladies and gentlemen, all dressed in their best, some with sticks, some in wheelchairs and many wearing uniforms not often seen in England. Gentlemen of 85 plus years wearing the large hats of the Australian, New Zealand and South African Forces and indeed many other nationalities all intent on going to Green Park to attend the Dedication and Unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial.
    It is not an easy thing to cross London in the rush hour but the London taxi cab drivers had volunteered to be at the main railway stations to drive veterans and their families to Green Park free of charge. We joined a short queue for a taxi and arrived at the Memorial site which is not far from Buckingham Palace. I should explain that the invitation said in view of the fact that there would be a fair bit of walking and standing around it would be advisable for anyone with walking difficulties to bring a wheelchair. So I invested in a wheelchair.
    Once arrived at the entrance to the Memorial site a charming young airman took charge of the wheelchair and we were taken to a marquee where refreshments were provided. We were then shown to our seats, about 10 rows from the front. There were about one thousand people in our section in front of the memorial and another five thousand in the other area set aside as well as many passers-by who were watching for the arrival of the Queen. Whilst we were waiting for the ceremony to begin we were soon in conversation with the people around us who all had a story to tell. The event was very well organised by Bomber Command Association, with the support of the RAF.
    The Royal Air Force Central Band was playing. The choir of the R.A.F. church, St Clement Danes was there to lead the hymn singing. Then the flags were paraded. Then members of the Royal family arrived, including the Queen’s sons the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex and his wife, also the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince Michael of Kent. After this the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived. There followed a fanfare from the trumpeters of the R.A.F. Central Band before the Queen arrived with the Duke of Edinburgh. We all sang the National Anthem.
    After an introductory speech the service began. There were prayers and Bible readings, two hymns and an address. The Queen then unveiled the wonderful memorial of the seven standing airmen . The figures are beautifully sculptured and are about nine feet high. It is most impressive. The whole memorial is in white Portland stone and will give poignant pleasure to all who view it. There was a flypast of Tornados and then the unmistakable roar of engines as the Lancaster flew over the site and dropped hundreds of poppy petals on Green Park.
    Members of the Royal family came round to talk to the veterans and their families and I felt honoured to exchange a few words with the Earl of Wessex, the Queen’s youngest son. The fact that so many of the Royal family attended this ceremony pleased us all after the long wait.
    Last edited by aestorm; 2nd July 2012 at 08:06.

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    Default Thanks Ann

    my two cousins went too, one for his father, Clifford Middleton and the other for his brother, Donald Tittley both who lived to a ripe old age, the latter was hard for his brother to do as he is a Quacker and does not believe in conflict, but from what I have read from him it was a very memorable and moving day.

    One of the NZ contingent came from my step fathers retirement village in Auckland NZ and we are waiting his return and he has promised to tell us about it. We thank the NZ Government who made it possible for these men to attend with their caregivers.

    I loved the Lancaster and the poppies we saw on our TV News it must have been very moving. As an aside one of my other cousins sons was flying one of the Tornadoes but he was from my Dads side of the family whilst the others were Mums side.

    Dyan

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    Thanks for posting that Anne and please thank your friend for sharing her experience of the day. I knew a few people who managed to get tickets to attend but there were so many others who were not able to go, myself included, so it's lovely to hear from those who were there.

    I was fortunate enough to have been sent a programme from the day and a poppy that was dropped from the Lancaster.

    One day I hope to be able to go and see the memorial for myself. It looks incredibly impressive and is a long overdue recognition of what the men and women of Bomber Command did for our freedom.

    Kind Regards
    Linzee

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    Default Well done Anne

    Quite a collection of programmes on at the same time should have made the point loud and clear.

    Who betrayed the Bomber Boys on Yesterday as well. I did not realise myself that the very famous Battle of Britain poster saying "Never was so much owed by so many to so few", with the five 'pilots' looking up to the sky, is actually a group of Bomber Boys.

    Churchill in his Glory Days during the war said many good things about the Bomber Boys, one such statement in August 1941 following a particularly costly operation to attack German shipping in Rotterdam, mostly Blenheims, l beleive, he said:-

    “The devotion and gallantry of these attacks on Rotterdam…are beyond all praise. The Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava is eclipsed in brightness by these almost daily deeds of fame.”

    Just a shame that there are not more vets around to see it.

    There l go again, upsetting Fighter Command and the Cavalry in one posting.

    Regards,

    Nick
    Last edited by NickFenton; 2nd July 2012 at 15:48.

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    Youtube coverage of the entire service

    http://www.lancaster-archive.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=45&t=5299

    Cheers
    Rodger
    In remembrance of the crew of Halifax HR732
    51 Squadron Snaith - All LWT Leipzig 4 December 1943

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    Having volunteered 6 months ago to take part in this event this is Part 1 of 2 detailing my involvement in the ceremonial side of this event. I was one of the four escorts to the Standards of the 13 ex BC Sqns stil operational

    Having left Northolt at 7AM in (very refreshing) light drizzle, we arrived at Wellington Barracks at 9AM (rush hour!) However at 1015 when the word to get ready to move was given there was an audiable groan when it was revealed the temperature was now 28 deg!!

    At 1026 and 40 secs (precisely) the RAF Central Band led the QCS, UAS's and the RAF Standards out of Wellington Barracks to be greeted by X,000's who had just watched Changing of the Guard . . ..

    Within seconds, we were marching past Buckingham Palace on our left and the Victoria Memorial on our right before entering Green Park via Canada Gate

    Here the QCS and UAS continued on as the Stnds & Escorts had a brief wait. During the wait,we experienced the bizzare sight of being greeted by HRH Duke of York & Duke of Wessex who "had decided to walk" to the event as it was a nice day and they simply stopped to chat!! (followed by several "suits and earpieces")

    Then we marched up to the memorial passing the Salute Area on the left, & Joe Public on the right, the applause was terrrific and well appreciated

    Finally making to the right position I nearly lost my toecaps to the Royal Bentley when HMTQ arrived as her car was very close! Utter honour to carry out Royal Salute present arms to HMTQ

    Although I've mentioned the Standards, given the uniqueness of the event, although the QCS were on parade, the honour of Standard Escorts fell to 18 Sqn Odiham and 78 Sqn Benson

    78 Sqn by pure luck gained pole position in being immediately L/R of the memorial (I was on the right - if looking at the statues)

    Facing the veterans I was infront of the Kiwi or Ausssie wheelchair contingent - I also managed to clock several Poles and a Maple Leaf badge being prouldy worn

    Apart from the obvious veteran and some multi national uniforms a sea of faces and far too many TV cameras stared back at me

    After the flypasts / poppydrop, a march off left wheel saw 78 Sqn lead off one group of standards to the left back the way we came, whilst 18 Sqn led the far group down Constitution Hill

    From our group 83 yr old Ron Pearson carrying the BCA Stnd was led back to the memorial (via Picadilly) to meet HMTQ

    More marching back to Canada Gate amid even more cheering and applause on the return leg

    Part 2 follows shortly . . . .

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    D&U of the BCM Part 2.

    Concurrent to the move of the parade personnel . . .

    A second group of 78 Sqn personnel from Benson travelled to the event to act as ushers in the memorial area (there were also many others from across the country but we provided the lions share)

    Having seen them on their return on Thursday night, I can add in a few snippits from them

    The 78 Sqn contingent consisted of "the Boss" aircrew and engineers (who had family links to BC) The Boss was on front row veteran water bottle duties and the others were "all over" the memorial area

    One of our number bumped into one of the two still surviving Norwegian members of BC (the other was too ill to attend) After routine chit chat it emerged he served on Halifax's. A quick call to the Boss followed and it is being arranged for this gent to visit 78 at some point in the future (don't know his name - yet!)

    Elsewhere multiple "on three engines and a dead MUG" tales emerged but alas no one from the current 78 met any actual 78 "vets"

    As expected in the heat, several vets had heat stress related issues and a fleet of medics were on hand to assist. I have heard of only one more serious medical issue but I nothing more on that specific case

    On the topic of the poppy drop. Obviously I didn't see it as I could not look up! although I could not miss the roar of four Merlin engines

    I have been advised that although the poppy drop occurred a thermal pushed the poppies up again. Multiple UAS personnel used brilliant initiative to go and collect as many as possible - to hand them out to the veterans as they found them . . .

    Finally to end on an amusing tale ~ Listen very carefully I shall say zis only once!

    Two 78 Sqn ushers "clocked" a nice looking woman walking towards them. Being perfect gents they exchanged formalities before realising this woman was the actress Vicky Michelle ~ AKA "Yvette" from the sitcom "Allo Allo" Naturally within seconds Aircrew humour saw the question asked "Was she was here to help any stupid British Airmen hiding in the cellar" - Quelle Suprise - it turns out she also had relatives who served in BC too . . .

    Despite the bruises aching arms and feet and having worn No 1's medals webbing and escorts sash in 28 degs heat it was a memorable experience for all who attended or participated & without doubt the proudest day of my 24.5 year career - so far!

    Tony H
    78 Sqn
    RAF Benson

    NB: The standards on parade were from; 7, IX, 10, 12, XV, 18, 51, 57(R), 78, 99, 100, 101, 617, BCA and QCS

    The 617 Sqn Stnd was uniquely carried by a (exchange posting) Captain in the KLU / RNLAF

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    Thanks all for interesting comments and Tony's experiences .

    My friend said that they were well looked after with bottles of water handed out and young airmen helping, plus plenty of toilets !! On the broadcast I viewed I noticed some people didn't have hats so they must have suffered in the heat .

    The London taxi drivers "free of charge " kind gesture wasn't mentioned in any accounts that I read ?

    Anne

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    Anne

    I can 100% confirm that;

    1. It wasn't just young airmen handing out out bottles of water. Group Captains, Wing Commanders and even a 1* were helping the vets and other guests.

    2. The association of black cab drivers not only provided free transport to/fm the main event but also provided frre transport later that evening as many vet associations had "meet up's" in and around the city centre

    Tony

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    Thank you all for this very interesting though poignant post. I'm going to visit the memorial this Friday. I'm travelling by train to London Kings Cross then on to Green Park by tube. But first a couple of questions:

    Q1. Where exactly is the memorial in Green Park?
    Q2. Which is the best station to alight, Hyde Park Corner or Green Park?
    Q3. Can someone recommend a nearby restaurant?

    Thank you

    Norman
    Last edited by namrondooh; 4th July 2012 at 15:21. Reason: adding third sentence in top line

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