The Service of Thanksgiving and Rededication on Battle of Britain Sunday
20th September 2009 at 11:00
This annual service marks the remarkable victory, and loss of life, by Royal Air Force pilots and aircrew during the Battle of Britain in 1940 and is an occasion to mark the nation's gratitude for the service and sacrifice of those who took part in this critical phase of World War Two.
The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign to be fought entirely in the skies. When the battle was over 544 RAF pilots and aircrew were dead. The conflict brought together a truly multinational force comprising 574 British, 139 Poles, 98 New Zealanders, 86 Canadians, 84 Czechoslovakians, 29 Belgians, 21 Australians, 20 South Africans, 13 French, 10 Irish plus others from the USA, Jamaica, Palestine and Southern Rhodesia.
It was Churchill who said on 20 August 1940: "The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
The pilots and aircrew are commemorated in the RAF Chapel at the east end of the Abbey's Henry VII Chapel where a magnificent stained glass memorial window designed by Hugh Easton was unveiled by King George VI on 10 July 1947.
This service will end with a RAF flypast.