The Bomber Command Memorial ‘allowed veterans to speak of their sacrifices’

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The command suffered an extraordinary death toll during the war, with 55,573 aircrew killed of the 125,000 who served.

Heavy bombers such as the Avro Lancaster were loaded with tens of thousands of pounds of high explosives as well as huge fuel tanks, meaning any hit from anti-aircraft guns or enemy aircraft could be catastrophic.

The memorial service was launched by members of the University of London Air Squadron describing the stories of five members of Bomber Command from across the Commonwealth who died fighting for Britain.

Among them are Canadian pilot Patrick Langford, who was captured and later shot down during the Great Escape, and John Jennings, a 19-year-old flight engineer who was shot down and killed alongside six crewmates on D-Day.

The Last Post and Reveille were performed and Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, the head of the RAF, recited For the Fallen by Robert Laurence Binyon.

Greeted with warm applause

The small handful of veterans in attendance, including members of the Women’s Auxilliary Air Force, were greeted with hearty applause as they laid wreaths at the foot of the memorial.

For two decades the only major public commemoration of anyone connected with Bomber Command was a statue of its Commander-in-Chief, Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris, outside St Clement Danes, the RAF Church, on the Strand in London.

This statue, which was raised through the efforts of RAF veterans, was the subject of controversy with protesters booing the Queen Mother when she unveiled it in May 1992. It was vandalized the same year .

The official memorial, inaugurated 20 years later, did not arouse the same kind of controversy.

Mr Darlow stressed that the Piccadilly monument was apolitical and made no comment on the good or bad of strategic bombing, reflecting a new willingness to look at bombing campaigns.

“I think there’s more willingness to discuss Bomber Command and accept that it’s morally ambiguous. But also to separate that from the human effort.

“And I think the memorial does that very, very well. It separates arguments about the morality of the bombing offensive from human effort and sacrifice.”

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