The Festival of Remembrance commemorates and honours those who have fallen whilst serving their country as well as paying tribute to all current Armed Forces personnel.
This year’s festival, held at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 9th November, featured a short film commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Dambusters raid. During the festival, JohnnyJohnson, the only surviving bomb aimer to have taken part in this most daring and innovative air raids of World War II, was passed the torch of remembrance by former 617 Squadron navigator, Squadron Leader Jon Howard. When asked what remembrance meant to him, Johnny paused before answering:
“That’s a difficult question. It’s emotional to start with! It means remembering the fifty three we lost on our raid as well as the 3 that were taken prisoner. I also think of the 55,573 aircrew that were killed whilst serving with Bomber Command. To be associated with this celebration of remembrance is an honour. I think it’s essential, not only for myself, but for the younger people to know what we did so they can live as they do today.”
Squadron Leader Tom Hill, a former pilot with 617 Squadron, stood shoulder to shoulder with Jon and Johnny and read aloud the festival citation whilst the torch of remembrance was exchanged:
“It’s the first time I have taken part in this event and it’s great to see Johnny again as he is a direct link back to our original squadron. I have the upmost respect for him. 617 squadron are currently on operations in Afghanistan and to be asked to represent them is a real honour.”
617 Squadron provide vital close air support, reconnaissance and intelligence gathering in support of allied forces in Afghanistan. They have recently been deployed for the very last time as a Tornado squadron before they reform as a Lightening II squadron in 2016. Tom added:
“Recounting my time in Kandahar, I think about the support we provided to ground forces and the work that we did that enabled them to do theirs. Whether it was looking for roadside bombs or scanning ahead of patrols moving through villages. The sensors we have on the aircraft allow us to get a ground picture and we can relay information that helps keep ground forces safe.”
Flight Lieutenant Mike Chatterton and Senior Aircraftsman Technician ‘Chip’ Murphy represented the RAF in the muster parade. Following in his father’s footsteps as a Lancaster pilot Mike said:
“As a family, remembrance is a very special event and to be here today I shall remember for the rest of my life; I’m sure dad would have been very proud.”
Chip added: “I’ve always wanted to take part in this event and contribute to the feeling of remembering the debt we owe to our fellow servicemen. I had an immense wave of emotion and sense of pride during the muster. The Act of Remembrance followed by the last post, followed by two minutes silence as the poppies fell down from above, representing every serviceman who has lost his life, is unbelievably overwhelming. The hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention.”
Editor: Rebecca Jepps
Photographs: Sgt Pete Mobbs
Festival of Remembrance at the Royal ALbert Hall 2013.
L-R Squadron Leader Tom Hill, Squadron Leader George 'Johnny' Johnson and Squadron Leader Jon Howard, together they will carry the torch of remembrance.
Flight Lieutenant Mike Chatterton.
SAC(T) Davis 'Chip' Murphy of the Royal Air Force Memorial Flight based at RAF Coningsby.
RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2013