RAF Chapel

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Not to be confused with St. Clement Danes, the central church of the RAF.

At the eastern end of Westminster Abbey in the magnificent Lady Chapel built by King Henry VII is the RAF Chapel dedicated to the men of the Royal Air Force who died in the Battle of Britain between July and October 1940.

History[edit]

This chapel received damage from bombs which fell during the Battle of Britain in 1940 and a hole made in the stonework has been preserved and covered with glass. The Tudor glass in the window had also been blown out at the same time. The Dean of Westminster was approached early in 1943 by Mr. N. Viner-Brady who suggested the idea of a memorial to The Few and Dean Labilliere chose this small chapel as one suitable for the purpose. Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Trenchard and Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding headed a committee to raise funds for the furnishing of this chapel and for a stained glass window, which was unveiled by King George VI on 10 July 1947. Later the ashes of Trenchard and Dowding were interred there.

Subsequently, the Battle of Britain Roll of Honour was placed in the chapel. It contains the names of the 1,497 pilots and aircrew killed or mortally wounded during the Battle of Britain. Illuminated by calligrapher Daisy Alcock, the original work was paid for by Captain Bruce Ingram. It is paraded annually during the Service of Thanksgiving and Rededication on Battle of Britain Sunday. Originally escorted by 12 Battle of Britain veterans, today the Roll of Honour Escort comprises Battle of Britain Veterans and serving Royal Air Force Junior Officers from an extant operational Squadron that fought in the Battle of Britain.

Also buried in the RAF Chapel are notable leaders of the RAF, including Lord Trenchard and Air Chief Marshal Dowding, as well as "Bomber" Harris, the man who led RAF Bomber Command during much of the Second World War.

A tradition has grown that the remaining Battle of Britain veterans and their families hold their own, private service in the Chapel prior to the Service of Thanksgiving and Rededication on Battle of Britain Sunday.

Service of Thanksgiving and Rededication[edit]

The annual service on Battle of Britain Sunday is held in Westminster Abbey on the Sunday on or following Battle of Britain Day (15 September), and has taken place annually since 1943; the first service took place in St Paul's Cathedral and since has taken place in Westminster Abbey.[1]

The format of the service has not changed since 1943. The Battle of Britain Roll of Honour is paraded through the abbey. Originally, it was escorted by 12 Battle of Britain veterans; today, the escort is made up of six veterans and six serving Junior Officers in the RAF. The RAF Fighter Command Silk Ensign is also carried through the abbey, borne and escorted by serving Junior RAF Officers from an extant Battle of Britain squadron that is currently operational. The Ensign Bearer always wears the Moneypenny Sword.

The service is a ticket-only event, arranged by the Royal Air Force Ceremonial Office. Notices are placed in The Times and The Daily Telegraph newspapers in June. Applications can be made in writing to SO3 RAF Ceremonial Events at RAF Northolt by Former Battle of Britain aircrew, Relatives of Battle of Britain aircrew now deceased (either during the war or since), Past or present members of the RAF or its Reserve forces and Members of the public.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

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