Over 300 WWII veterans who flew into the face of adversity with Bomber Command joined together in Lincoln on October 2, as an iconic spire created in their honour was unveiled.
The spire, on Canwick Hill, towers over the site of the £10m International Bomber Command Centre project.
It pays tribute to the thousands of aircrew who lost their lives flying from airfields in Lincolnshire.
The gathering of honoured guests , veterans and their families is believed to be the biggest of its kind in recent times – and will most likely be the last.
The ceremony marked the completion of phase one of the project, and the walls of names in memory of the fallen.
After a worldwide appeal, the International Bomber Command Centre Trust welcomed Bomber Command veterans, the oldest of whom was 101, representing 19 countries.
They were thanked for their service and bravery by the Rt Hon The Earl Howe, Minister of State for Defence, who officially unveiled the memorial.
As an extra ‘thank you’, veterans were treated to the inaugural performance of ‘Strike Hard, Strike Sure’ (the Bomber Command motto).
The anthem was specially commissioned by the IBCC Trustees and composed by Tom Davoren, one of the UK’s most celebrated composers.
To emphasise the importance of the day, the 2,000 plus attendees were treated to a spectacular fly-over by a Vulcan, Blenheim, Dakota, four Tutors, two GR4 Tornadoes, three Hawks and the current MacRobert’s Reply.
Tony Worth CVO, Chairman of the IBCC Trust, said: “Today was a truly humbling experience. Having so many veterans together and listening to their stories further underlines the importance of the International Bomber Command Project that has, to date, been eight years of hard work by all of those involved.
“We now need to find the remaining funding of £3.8million to enable the Chadwick Centre, visitor amenities and memorial walls (phase two and three) to be completed.
“This will then ensure that the achievements of all those brave men and women in Bomber Command will never be forgotten”.
For many, the day was an opportunity to remember friends who did not return from the war. The first sighting of the 102 ft spire also brought back vivid memories of military adventures and hardships.
91-year-old former mid upper gunner Fred Hooker from the 75th New Zealand Squadron spoke to The Lincolnite about his time in the Bomber Command and as a prisoner of war.
He said: “I was shot down over Germany on September 12 1944 and I spent nine months in a camp.
“It was a bit rough. On one occasion I had a pistol on me for three quarters of an hour while a man was asking us questions.
“We just said our number ranking and thinking nobody knew if we were alive or dead, and here we are!”
Overlooked by Lincoln Cathedral, which was seen by many as a symbol of home, the spire has become a new beacon for Bomber Command.
Together with the Chadwick Centre and Peace Gardens, the scheme will form another important part of the county’s aviation history.
Lincoln-based Place Architecture were behind the striking designs for the project.
Steven Palmer said: “I hope we have done the trust proud. We are working on the Chadwick Centre already and have a revised design for the building.
“It has a bigger remit and is simplified and work will hopefully start on it next year.”
The Bomber Command Tribute
- 125,000 aircrew served in Bomber Command durring WWII
- 6,680 tons of food was dropped over Holland in 1945 as part of Operation Manna
- 55,573 Bomber Command aircrew were killed on operations during WWII
- 364,514 operational sorties were flown during WWII
- 70% of aircrew died, were taken prisoner or were injured between 1939 and 1945
- 3,491 aircraft were lost from Lincolnshire
- 28% of aircrew were killed from countries other than the UK
- 25,611 Bomber Command aircrew from Lincolnshire lost their lives flying from Lincolnshire.