Battle of Britain anniversary: Flypast by Hurricanes and Spitfires and details of events to mark conflict’s 80th anniversary today

It has now been 80 years since the Battle of Britain started in 1940 and today will mark the anniversary.

Though the conflict took place from 10th July to 31st October 1940, September 15th has always been marked ‘Battle of Britain day’ after a decisive victory over the Nazi Luftwafe.

And to celebrate the 80th anniversary, the Battle of Britain will be commemorated with tributes and initiatives including the opening of unseen historic second world war rooms at the Imperial War Museum’s Duxford site in Cambridge today.

And In London, alternating union and RAF Ensign flags will fly on The Mall.

The RAF will also do a ‘fly over’ in memory of the service people who fought and died in the battle.

Two planes synonymous with the Battle of Britain are the Hurricane and Spitfire fighters.

Former Red Arrows pilots will fly legendary planes from the battle – the Hurricane and Spitfire – over southern England today.

They will visit main RAF control centres and airfields including Tangmere, Kenley, Biggin Hill, Hornchurch, North Weald, Bentley Priory, Debden and Duxford.

The RAF website says it 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.”

The references to ‘The Many’ and ‘The Few’ come from a speech Prime Minister Winston Churchill made in the summer of 1940.

Addressing the House of Commons on August 20 1940, he said: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” ‘The Few’ being the RAF pilots battling the German Luftwaffe.

September 15th marks the day two massive waves of German attacks were fought off while 60 German and 26 RAF planes were shot down.

Wing Commander Frederick William Higginson, of 56 Squadron, shot down “13-and-a-half” German planes after joining the RAF, according to his son Phil.

Among them was a Dornier 17 bomber which he brought down over Bournemouth during the Battle of Britain.

“The half was because two of them shot the same plane,” Phil, a 65-year-old teacher from Pembrokeshire, said.

“He was shot down four times during the war, twice over France, where he was captured and escaped.

“He enjoyed flying and often said he felt sorry for soldiers who had to engage on the ground.”

Wing Cdr Higginson died aged 89 in 2003.

On the 60th anniversary he said in an interview he was “one of the lucky ones”.

“There can be no doubt the Battle of Britain did change the course of the war,” he said.

“I’m not claiming I did anything particularly brave, but we all pulled together because we had such a real fear of invasion.”

An annual Westminster Abbey Battle of Britain service is also still due to take place on 20th September which will focus on lesser-known figures from the battle, including two pilots who enlisted from overseas.

The RAF will also hold a special radar tribute showcasing the heroes of the war and will be funded by the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.

A lightshow will also take place at RAF Bawdsey, a former radar station in Suffolk, and RAF Buchan in Aberdeenshire.

It will feature archive footage, photography to “bring to life” the stories of those who served on the ground during the Battle of Britain.

“Bringing attention to those men and women, and particularly women, who served during the Battle of Britain is important for us this year,” said Chris Elliot, controller of the fund.

“The women who served at the RAF airfields were doing it under fire, those airfields were being bombed by the Luftwaffe on a daily basis sometimes.

“So they’re not the heroes that we potentially think about, but these are the people we should be recognising as well, especially on this significant anniversary.”

 


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