Recorder joins Romford charity in commemorating Battle of Britain 75 years on
- Credit: PA WIRE
In life, there are those rare moments when a pure emotion transcends all else, the whirrings of our everyday existence ceasing to be.
It can be as simple as a line of elderly men filing out of a church, in wheelchairs, clutching sticks or pushing on unaided, spontaneous applause bursting out from strangers.
As the men continued, they made no acknowledgement to the crowd, seeing their remarkable role in history as a duty they were called upon to complete.
I saw this moving scene play out at Westminster Abbey yesterday, where a special service took place to thank the pilots who protected our shores from invasion through their bravery during the Battle of Britain.
Just over 75 years ago, on September 15 1940, the RAF achieved its most decisive victory in the battle against the Luftwaffe, leading to the postponement of the Nazis’ invasion plan Operation Sealion.
And, joining with Romford-based charity Veterans of War, I saw more than 2,000 members of the public commemorate a debt of such magnitude that it can never be repaid.
The service saw Prince Charles and politicians join together with veterans, cadets and Forces representatives at the abbey.
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Prince Charles was presented with a wreath to lay on the memorial stone to Sir Winston Churchill, presented by the great prime minister’s grandson, MP Sir Nicholas Soames.
During the commemoration, the Battle of Britain Roll of Honour was carried from the Tomb of the Unknown warrior to the Sacrarium, with an escort of veterans, their sons, serving Royal Air Force pilots and aircrew.
This was a moment which proved particularly emotional for Denise Speight, the founder of Veterans of War.
RAF chaplain-in-chief Air Vice-Marshal Jonathan Chaffey gave a powerful address to the abbey, telling how humanity must keep faith when all seems desperate and helpless.
He also spoke of Hurricane pilot Tony Pickering, who was “scorched” after his plane was hit, baling out before later having a whisky and getting up in the air again the next day.
Following the service, a flypast of four spitfires and two hurricanes was observed.
The occasion poignantly brought to mind Churchill’s most famous of phrases: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”