Battle of Britain Veterans at 77th anniversary

Events have been held across the country today to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Four veterans attended a service of Thanksgiving and Rededication at Westminster Abbey and, as they left received a standing ovation.

The air battle over southern England in 1940 convinced Hitler not to invade Britain, and marked a turning point in the Second World War.

The Prince of Wales, Patron of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association attended the service to mark the 77th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. 

He was joined by the Duchess of Cornwall, closely followed by Prime Minister Theresa May and leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn.

After the service the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall joined a reception with Veterans and their families at Church House, Westminster, London.

The annual service marks the remarkable victory, and loss of life, by Royal Air Force pilots and aircrew during the Battle of Britain in 1940.

It was during this week, 77 years ago, that the RAF’s Fighter Command repelled a massive Luftwaffe assault in the skies over southern England – effectively ending Hitler’s plans to invade Britain.

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.

It was Churchill who said on 20 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 conflict brought together a truly multinational force: 2,334 British, 33 Australians, 29 Belgians, 98 Canadians, 88 Czechoslovakians, 13 French, 10 Irish, 1 Jamaican, 1 Newfoundlander, 126 New Zealanders, 145 Poles, 3 Rhodesians, 25 South Africans and 11 Americans.

The Battle of Britain, as it became known, involved three thousand men, who Winston Churchill referred to as “the few”.

But the country did not stand alone, with nearly six hundred pilots coming from all over the commonwealth and occupied Europe, including two Polish fighter squadrons.

On the ground, they were supported by “the many”, one and a half million volunteers who manned observation posts, fired air defence guns and worked in factories churning out aircraft and ammunition.

The average age of a Battle of Britain pilot was just twenty, and only around twelve veterans from the Battle are still alive.