The last remaining members of World War Two’s Bomber Command, including six from Northamptonshire, were reunited at a special event to unveil a wall of Remembrance.
The reunion, which will probably be the very last time so many veterans are brought together, was held at the International Bomber Command Centre at Canwick Hill in Lincolnshire.
The veterans, the oldest of whom is 101, were treated to a celebration with the inaugral performance of ‘Strike Hard, Strike Sure’ (the Bomber Command motto), an anthem specifically commissioned by the IBCC Trustees and composed by Tom Davoren one of the most dynamic young composers in the UK today. Tom is regularly commissioned by brass and wind musicians from across the globe and has had performances of his music given at many of the world’s greatest concert halls. Application has been made to officially recognise the piece as the ‘Bomber Command March’.
The Rt Hon The Earl Howe, Minister of State for Defence in the Upper House and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, officially unveiled the Memorial Spire that is the first significant and visible development in the building of the new International Bomber Command Centre.
And, to emphasize the importance of the day, attendees including veterans, their families and dignitaries were treated to a spectacular fly-over by a Vulcan, Blenheim, four Tutors, two GR4 Tornadoes, three Hawks and the current MacRobert’s Reply.
MacRobert’s Reply, a Short Stirling bomber, is the best known of all the aircraft operated by XV Squadron throughout its history. The aircraft was initially funded by Lady MacRobert in memory of her husband and three sons, the latter who were all lost in WWII. This was a fitting tribute as the last remaining crew member from the wartime MacRobert’s Reply was amongst the veterans attending the event. It was a truly breath taking spectacle.
Other highlights comprised of a selection of music, singing and acting entertainments which included a performance of ‘If You Hadn't Done What You Did’ written and produced by Jim Dooley (former member of The Dooleys, 70/80s pop band) and sung by Charlotte Mellor. Dooley had composed the song to mark the 75th Anniversary of The Battle of Britain. It was first sung by Charlotte, a British Legion ‘poppy girl’ whose father is the Wing Commander Padre at RAF Coningsby, at the Royal Albert Hall Remembrance Event in London.
The veterans were provided with a celebratory luncheon and the Dean of Lincoln Cathedral, The Very Reverend Philip Buckler, gave a blessing.
Says Tony Worth CVO, Chairman of the IBCC Trust, “The event 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.”
And adds Nicky Barr, Director of the IBCC and responsible for the day’s events, “This is a day that will be remembered by all of those who attended. It has validated all the hard work that organising such an event has entailed and I thank, from the bottom of my heart, all of those who have given so generously in terms of finance, time and support, to make sure that we were able to provide such an amazing day for all of the veterans.”