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The Queen unveils a memorial to Bomber Command

28th June 2012

The Prince of Wales speaks with former members of WWII RAF Bomber Command

The Prince of Wales speaks with former members of WWII RAF Bomber Command

Second World War veterans from Britain and around the world braved sweltering conditions today to see the Queen unveil a memorial to tens of thousands of airmen who died in the conflict.

The Bomber Command Memorial in London's Green Park remembers the sacrifice and bravery of the RAF crew who played a crucial part in winning the War and faced death on a daily basis.

More than 5,000 veterans and veterans' relatives joined The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall to remember the 55,573 RAF crew who lost their lives.

Temperatures were in the low 80s with humidity also high, rising from 60 per cent at noon when the service began to 65 per cent at 1pm a few minutes after it ended.

The Queen pulled a rope to unveil the centrepiece of the memorial, a 9ft bronze sculpture depicting a seven-man bomber crew returning from a mission.

The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, told those gathered for a 40-minute long service of dedication: "It's a great honour to see so many veterans from the Commonwealth and elsewhere today.

"This country and the Commonwealth have shown the veterans that their service and courage have been recognised."

The Last Post was sounded and there was also a flypast by five RAF GR4 Tornado bomber aircraft crewed by the RAF, and another by the RAF's last flying Lancaster Bomber, which dropped poppies over the park as a message of remembrance for those who died.

Heike Grossmann, spokeswoman for the mayor of Dresden, Helma Orosz, said the inscription to all those who died was "a further gesture of reconciliation between Britain and Germany".

Dudley Hannaford, 88, who came from Sydney, Australia for the service, told how he served as a wireless operator on Lancaster bombers flying out of RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

"I had 18 operations over Germany and I was shot down on the 18th," he said.

"I joined up with the pilot and we tried to evade capture, which we did for 16 days, but we ran out of food and had to give ourselves up.

"It was quite near the end of the war anyway, and I was in a prisoner of war camp near Munich when I was released and repatriated."

He said today's occasion was "absolutely wonderful".

"It makes me think of release and victory. I only played a very small part in that, but it is something to be very thankful for."

Other veterans came from Canada and New Zealand.