This year’s annual memorial service at the Battle of Britain Memorial, Capel Le Ferne was held on Sunday 3rd July and remembered both the 76th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain alongside the 75th Anniversary of the ATC.
I was privileged to be able to attend with my beautiful wife Sharne in the guest marquee – joining in remembrance of all those who served, fought, flew and those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Battle of Britain.
Having two Battle of Britain veterans as guests of honour who I’ve been desperate to meet was a huge moment for me personally. To be in the company of Sqn Ldr Geoffrey Wellum DFC & Wg Cdr Paul Farnes DFM on such a poignant day was very special indeed.
Sqn Ldr Wellum has been a huge personal inspiration after his incredible book ‘First Light’ was one of the very first I ever read. He remains a dedicated ambassador for the ‘Few’ and continues to do so much to help raise awareness and donations even at his tender age of 95. Wg Cdr Paul Farnes being the only other Battle of Britain ‘Ace’ still alive, alongside Tom Neil was someone I’d always hoped I’d have the honour of meeting. He was just remarkable given he was just a few days from turning 98!
Also in attendance were the Viscount De L’Isle MBE, Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford KCB CBE ADC RAF, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon GCB CBE, Chairman of the Battle Of Britain Memorial Trust along with many other respected dignitaries.
The weather was absolutely glorious and the Memorial service itself very moving. Various readings paid tribute to the servicemen and women, and it was hard not to get a lump in the throat when Sqn Ldr Wellum read the “Ode of Remembrance” whilst I was looking at Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris Wall of names.
The cadets and parade teams on duty did themselves very proud in the raging heat, and following an initial flyover from the BBMF Spitfire Mk.IIa P7350 & Hurricane MK.IIc LF363 they both returned to close the show with a brilliant flying display over the Memorial in front of the watching Sqn Ldr Wellum and public crowds.
The Capel memorial is very special place and I would encourage anyone who hasn’t been to pay a visit. The site has had significant development and modernisation with the recent opening of the Wing which is superb. It offers visitors a wealth of interactive information and hopefully will continue to help educate our future generations on our proud history, and so that those who were involved continue to be remembered.
For me, meeting Mr Wellum and chatting briefly about my own Spitfire flight in 2015 is something that will stay with me forever!