A STUNNING flyover has taken place to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain today.
Commemorations have been organised to honour hero pilots despite restrictions due to the coronavirus crisis.
Among the tributes, the Imperial War Museum organised special exhibitions.
Some “unusual” sites have also been to the National Heritage List to celebrate the contributions of those involved.
The Battle of Britain was a major air campaign fought in the skies over the UK in 1940 and was the first battle in history fought entirely in the air.
Around 1,120 Luftwaffe aircraft were sent to attack London – but were stopped by 630 RAF fighters, forcing Hitler to postpone his plans to invade Britain.
The airmen became known as “The Few” following a tribute by then prime minister Winston Churchill, who said: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
Only one member of The Few, John Hemingway, is still alive today, aged 101.
Although today is marked annually as Battle of Britain Day, the conflict actually took place from July 10 to October 31, 1940.
Commemorations are limited this year due to coronavirus restrictions, though alternating Union and RAF Ensign flags will fly on The Mall, at Buckingham Palace, from September 15 to 20, the Ministry of Defence said.
The RAF website says: “This year the RAF is commemorating and celebrating those who made this victory possible.
“From the hard work and determination of ‘The Many’, to the courage and sacrifice of ‘The Few’ – the 2,945 RAF aircrew who faced the Luftwaffe from July to October 1940.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The Battle of Britain is one of the nation’s greatest and most important victories.
“For more than 100 years the Royal Air Force has defended the UK, and 80 years ago, alongside our allies, they experienced one of their toughest endeavours.
“The strength displayed during the Battle of Britain is a testament to the UK Armed Forces and all they continue to do at home and abroad.
“This anniversary provides an opportunity for us all to honour those involved and reflect on their bravery and the unimaginable sacrifices they made to ensure freedom for future generations.
“I am incredibly proud of our Greatest Generation and all they achieved in that heroic effort 80 years ago.
“Lest we forget.”
A special radar tribute highlighting the achievements of women and other “unsung heroes” will form the centre point of celebrations run by the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.
Chris Elliot, controller of the fund, said: “Bringing attention to those men and women, and particularly women, who served during the Battle of Britain is important for us this year.”
The annual Westminster Abbey Battle of Britain service is still due to take place on September 20, though attendance will be significantly reduced.
The MoD, in collaboration with the National Archives and the RAF museum, has also produced a special episode of the On The Record podcast, called Untold Battle of Britain.
The episode focuses on lesser-known figures from the battle, including two pilots who enlisted from overseas, to highlight the wider efforts of those who contributed to the military campaign.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport also listed four new heritage sites and upgraded three others in tribute to the generation that fought for the country’s freedom.
The new sites – which will now have special protections due to their historical significance – include a colourful air raid shelter in Surrey and a cleverly disguised bunker in Northumberland.
Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “The Battle of Britain affected every corner of our nation and it is right that, as we mark its 80th anniversary, we protect the sites, memorials and buildings paying tribute to those who fought and those who lost their lives.”
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