RAF Bomber Command Memorial

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RAF Bomber Command Memorial
United Kingdom
London RAF Bomber Command Memorial.JPG
Sculpture within the memorial
For the 55,573 aircrew of RAF Bomber Command who died during the Second World War
Unveiled 28 June 2012; 4 years ago (2012-06-28)
Location London, United Kingdom
Designed by Liam O'Connor (memorial)
Philip Jackson (sculpture)
Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it

The Royal Air Force Bomber Command Memorial is a memorial in Green Park, London, commemorating the crews of RAF Bomber Command who embarked on missions during the Second World War.[1] The memorial, located on Piccadilly near Hyde Park Corner, was built to mark the sacrifice of 55,573 aircrew from Britain, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Poland and other countries of the Commonwealth,[2] as well as civilians of all nations killed during raids.[3]

Queen Elizabeth II unveiled the memorial on 28 June 2012, the year of her Diamond Jubilee.[4]

History[edit]

The controversy over the tactics employed by RAF Bomber Command during the Second World War meant that an official memorial to the aircrews had been delayed for many years. Despite describing bombers as "the means of victory" in 1940, British prime minister Winston Churchill did not mention Bomber Command in his speech at the end of the war.[5]

Exterior of the memorial in 2013.

An appeal was made for £5.6 million to build the memorial, and funding came from donations made by the public, as well as substantial amounts from Lord Ashcroft[6] and businessmen John Caudwell and Richard Desmond.[7] Robin Gibb, the singer, became a key figure behind the appeal, working alongside Jim Dooley to raise funds and have the memorial built.[8]

Liam O'Connor designed the memorial, built of Portland stone, which features a bronze 9-foot (2.7 m) sculpture of seven aircrew, designed by the sculptor Philip Jackson to look as though they have just returned from a bombing mission and left their aircraft.[4]

Aluminium from a Royal Canadian Air Force Handley Page Halifax of No. 426 Squadron that had crashed in Belgium in May 1944 was used to build the roof of the memorial, which was designed to evoke the geodetic structure of the Vickers Wellington. The Halifax, LW682 OW/M, had been removed from a swamp in 1997 with three of the crew found still at their posts. They were buried with full military honours in Geraardsbergen and the remains of the aircraft were sent to Canada. Some of the metal was used for the restoration of a Halifax in Trenton, Ontario, and the rest was melted down by the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta. The Museum provided ingots for the memorial to commemorate the 10,659 of 55,573 Bomber Command aircrew killed during the war that were Canadian.[9][10]

The plinth of the memorial is inscribed with the following text by Pericles: "Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it."

Opening[edit]

Avro Lancaster PA474 carrying 800,000 poppies, taking off from RAF Coningsby on 28 June 2012 for the opening ceremony

There had been controversy in the lead-up to the official opening, with a lack of forthcoming funds to pay for the projected £700,000 cost of the ceremony. A number of veterans put forward their own money as security for the event, making them liable for the costs if donations did not cover the total. The Ministry of Defence drew criticism for not providing any money, in particular the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, who would be attending.[11] A number of veterans had also missed out on applying for tickets in the early stages, although many other parties returned theirs to allow them to attend.[12] Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the memorial on 28 June 2012, unveiling the bronze sculpture. The ceremony was attended by 6,000 veterans and family members of those killed,[4] and the Avro Lancaster of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight dropped red poppy petals over Green Park.[13]

In October 2012 it was reported that some of the trustees of the charity set up to fund the construction and opening of the Bomber Command Memorial would be liable for a shortfall of £500,000.[14] In May 2013, less than a year after its unveiling, the memorial was vandalised. The word 'Islam' was spray-painted on the Bomber Command Memorial and also on the Animals in War Memorial nearby.[15]

In March 2015, Les Munro, one of the last surviving members of the Dambusters Raid, intended to sell his war medals and flight logbook at auction to raise funds for the upkeep of the RAF Bomber Command Memorial. The auction was pulled after Lord Ashcroft donated £75,000 to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund towards the upkeep, with a further NZ$19,500 donated by the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland, New Zealand, where the medals will go on display.[16] Munro died a few months later in August 2015.[17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Kiwi WWII veterans to attend London memorial". New Zealand Herald. 28 June 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  2. ^ Renzetti, Elizabeth (29 June 2012). "A memorial for Bomber Command – too late for many". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved 13 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "The Aircrew of Bomber Command". Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c "Queen unveils RAF Bomber Command memorial". BBC News. 28 June 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  5. ^ Harrison, Paul (28 June 2012). "War Dead From Bomber Command Honoured". Sky News. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  6. ^ Ashcroft, Michael (23 June 2012). "A sense of pride and justice over the war memorial that rights a 67-year wrong". Daily Mail. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  7. ^ Hardman, Robert (26 June 2012). "Their last great victory: How a handful of heroes has prevailed against the shameful officials who almost sabotaged the new memorial to Bomber Command". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  8. ^ Barling, Kurt (21 May 2012). "Bee Gees singer Robin Gibb's War Memorial Campaign". BBC News. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  9. ^ "Memorial Update No 5". Bomber Command Memorial Appeal. 2012. Retrieved 30 June 2012. 
  10. ^ "Canada's Bomber Command Memorial". Bomber Command Museum of Canada. Retrieved 28 January 2016. 
  11. ^ Hartley-Parkinson, Richard (27 June 2012). "Defence Secretary branded a 'hypocrite' for saying he will go to Bomber Command Memorial unveiling despite refusing to pay for ceremony". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  12. ^ Brooke, Chris (22 June 2012). "Snubbed Bomber Command heroes get their seat of honour at memorial unveiling after all". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  13. ^ Sengupta, Kim (28 June 2012). "Memorial to Bomber Command unveiled in Green Park". The Independent. London. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  14. ^ "Bomber Command veterans face cash shortfall". BBC News. 3 October 2012. 
  15. ^ "Vandals deface war memorials in London parks". BBC News. 27 May 2013. 
  16. ^ Wilson, Libby (25 March 2015). "Deal keeps Dambuster medals in NZ". The Press. p. A4. 
  17. ^ Thomas, Rachel; Wilson, Libby (4 August 2015). "New Zealand loses a 'remarkable man' with death of Les Munro; John Key says". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 4 August 2015. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′12″N 0°8′56″W / 51.50333°N 0.14889°W / 51.50333; -0.14889