Hundreds of RAF Bomber Command veterans have been getting a first look at the new memorial in London’s Green Park honouring the sacrifice of 55,573 of their comrades during World War II. Family members and relatives of some of those who died in 1939-1945 conflict also turned out to see the Queen dedicate architect Liam O’Connor’s pavilion. Many of the veterans, who are in their late 80s and 90s, were of the view that the publicly-funded £6m memorial was long overdue but now that it is finally standing were appreciative of its build and scale.
After the service, the veterans, wearing service medals, crowded around the memorial and had pictures taken with family members. One marvelled at the detail in Philip Jackson’s 9ft high bronze sculptures of seven Lancaster bomber airman after a mission, saying he had “not missed a thing”. Russell Oldmeadow Former pilot Russell Oldmeadow was among the Commonwealth aircrew at the service
“The memorial is absolutely magnificent,” added Russell Oldmeadow, 90, from Canberra, Australia, one of a number of Commonwealth airmen in Bomber command who were present at the dedication.
“My brother was killed – that’s one reason why I’m here,” the former pilot said. “But it’s also a great occasion and I’m privileged.” About 5,000 of the 6,000 people at the dedication watched the service on a big screen in a “salute area”, a short walk away. There was applause as the Queen unveiled the sculptures and people described their first glimpse of the memorial as “impressive” and “moving”. The salute area event featuring music and entertainment was hosted by TV’s Carol Vorderman and organised by the RAF Benevolent Fund, which will look after maintenance of the memorial and is seeking to raise £1.5m to help cover costs.
Amanda Brierley, 42, from Barnoldswick, Lancashire, came to honour the memory of her grandfather Arthur Davies, a former rear gunner who died 15 years ago.
Accompanied by her grandmother, Ms Brierley said: “We’re here because he would have been here. He did think a memorial was missing.” It was a sentiment expressed by many at the event, who felt criticism of large-scale area bombing by the RAF near the end of WWII stalled plans for a memorial as it had become a “political issue”.
Former pilot Eric Jones, 89, from Poole, said: “It’s very definitely too late – so many would have loved to be here. I’m the last surviving member of my…