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BATTLE OF BRITAIN MEMORIAL

Compiled and Copyright © Carolynn Langley 2005

The memorial stands adjacent to Westminter Pier, Victoria Embankment, Westminster amd takes the form of a wall of stone cut through with an oblique walkway. The names of airmen from the 15 countries who fought in the Battle of Britain are listed on the outside (not listed here). There are several scenes cast in bronze on the inside of the memorial that include: pilots at rest, members of the Observer Corps watching for an attack, ground crews arming hurricanes, pilots scrambling, close-up of a pilot's face, pilots sharing stories in the mess hall, hop pickers in Kent watching an aerial battle, anti-aircraft gunners, women working in a factory, pilot closely pursued by a Luftwaffe pilot, St Paul's Cathedral surrounded by smoke from the Blitz, people searching the ruins after an air raid and a family making tea in an Anderson shelter. The outlines of a Bristol Beaufighter, Bristol Blenheim, Gloster Galdiator, Bolton Paul Defiant and a Hawker Hurricane are etched on the name panels. The RAF roundel, carved in granite, is set in the ground between the two halves of the wall. A large bronze insignia of Fighter Command is set into the western end of the memorial. There are 2,935 names listed, 1,597 served and returned, 1,339 died.

Photographs Copyright © Carolynn Langley 2005

WAR WITH NAZI GERMANY BEGAN IN SEPTEMBER
1939 AND BY JUNE 1940 HITLER'S FORCES HAD
OCCUPIED MOST OF WESTERN EUROPE, WITH FASCIST
REGIMES ALSO RULING IN ITALY AND SPAIN. FURTHER EXPANSION OF NAZI DOMINATION IN EUROPE
DEPENDED ON BRITAIN BEING NEUTRALISED BY EITHER INVASION OR SURRENDER UNDER GERMAN TERMS. AS PRIME MINISTER WINSTON CHURCHILL VOWED THAT
BRITAIN WOULD NEVER SURRENDER, THE GERMAN HIGH COMMAND COMMENCED 'OPERATION SEALION', THE INVASION OF BRITAIN. THE FIRST PRIORITY WAS FOR
GERMANY'S LUFTWAFFE TO GAIN CONTROL OF THE SKIES
ABOVE THE ENGLISH CHANNEL AND SOUTH EAST ENGLAND
TO PREVENT THE ROYAL NAVY AND ROYAL AIR FORCE
ATTACKING THE GERMAN INVASION FORCES WHILE THEY WERE AT SEA. ON 10TH JULY 1940 THE LUFTWAFFE STARTED A SERIES OF
ATTACKS ON PORTS AND CONVOYS IN THE ENGLISH CHANNEL. USING ADVANCED WARNING FROM RADAR
STATIONS. BRITAIN WAS DEFENDED IN THE AIR BY RAF
FIGHTER COMMAND UNDER AIR CHIEF MARSHAL HUGH DOWDING, WITH BACKUP FROM BALLOON BARRAGES AND
ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUN INSTALLATIONS ON THE GROUND. BY
EARLY AUGUST, WITH GERMAN INVASION FORCES AND
LANDING CRAFT BEING ASSEMBLED ON THE FRENCH COAST,
THE ATTACKS BECAME MUCH HEAVIER, WITH GERMAN
BOMBERS AND FIGHTERS CONCENTRATING ON RAF
AIRFIELDS AND AIRCRAFT FACTORIES. DURING THE HOT SUMMER OF 1940, PILOTS, MANY UNDER TWENTY YEARS OF AGE. WOULD 'SCRAMBLE' FOR THEIR
AIRCRAFT TO INTERCEPT ENEMY RAIDS AS OFTEN AS FIVE
TIMES A DAY AND INTO THE NIGHT. OUTNUMBERED IN AIR
BATTLES, EXHAUSTED RAF SQUADRONS WERE ROTATED TO
STATIONS ELSEWHERE IN BRITAIN AND REPLACED BY FRESH UNITS, OFTEN CONTAINING A HIGH PROPORTION OF LESS
EXPERIENCED PILOTS. BY EARLY SEPTEMBER THE INCREASINGLY CRITICAL SITUATION, ESPECIALLY IN AIR VICE MARSHAL KEITH
PARK'S 11 GROUP, WAS RELIEVED TEMPORARILY BY THE
LUFTWAFFE TURNING ITS ATTENTION TO LONDON IN A FINAL
ATTEMPT TO BREAK THE BRITISH WILL TO RESIST. THE
TURNING POINT CAME ON 15TH SEPTEMBER WHEN TWO
HUGE AIR ATTACKS WERE REPULSED WITH HEAVY LOSSES
LEADING HITLER TO CONCEDE THAT AN INVASION WOULD
FAIL. DAY AND NIGHT ATTACKS CONTINUED THROUGH TO
MAY 1941 BUT THE MAIN ASSAULT HAD ENDED BY LATE
OCTOBER 1940. THIS FAILURE TO SUBDUE BRITAIN
WOULD ULTIMATELY COST GERMANY THE WAR. OF THE 2936 PILOTS AND AIRCREW WHO FOUGHT IN
RAF FIGHTER COMMAND IN THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN,
544 LOST THEIR LIVES AND A FURTHER 795 DID NOT LIVE
TO SEE THE FINAL VICTORY IN 1945. ONE IN SIX WERE
FROM COUNTRIES OUTSIDE THE UNITED KINGDOM AND
ON THE PLAQUES SURROUNDING THIS MONUMENT, THEIR
NAMES HAVE BEEN GROUPED ACCORDING TO COUNTRY OF
ORIGIN. THE PLAQUES ALSO
FEATURE THE BADGES OF THEIR SQUADRONS. IT IS IN HONOUR OF THE SPIRIT AND SACRIFICE OF THOSE
KNOWN AS 'THE FEW' AND THOSE SUPPORTING
THEM THAT THIS MONUMENT HAS BEEN ERECTED.

Last updated 21 July, 2018

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