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Battle of Britain Service

Monday, 8th September 2008

Battle of Britain Service

Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will attend Westminster Abbey's Battle of Britain Thanksgiving Service on Sunday 21st September.

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 20th 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 10th July 1947.

This year's service will end with an RAF flypast, and marks the 90th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Air Force.

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There really isn’t a more spectacular building to work on. It’s been one of the most gratifying and rewarding experiences of my life.

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