A memorial service was held at the Air Forces Memorial in Runnymede today, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Heligoland Bight.
Delegations from of the Royal Air Force and the German Air Force were joined by representatives of the Royal British Legion and the Royal Air Forces Association. Also in attendance were many relatives of those that took part in the battle 80 years ago today.
57 Royal Air Force aircrew lost their lives in the Battle of Heligoland Bight, the first named air battle of the Second World War. Two German Air Force aviators also lost their lives.
“80 years on from the first air battle of the Second World War, that resulted in 57 RAF aircrew and two German Pilots losing their lives, this event was a reminder of the sacrifice made by many on behalf of their countries. The effort made by the many involved and incredible turnout from the relatives has been awe-inspiring, with some travelling thousands of miles to be with us here today.”
Air Commodore Nick Hay
RAF participation in the event.
Oberst i.G. Stephan Breidenbach, the German Defence Attaché to the United Kingdom, said:
“Each individual who died on that day had his own story to tell. It’s extremely important that we come together to commemorate the fallen of the wars together. It shows that there is hope for the future and living together in peace and friendship, as we are now with our British friends.”
The Reverend (Wing Commander) David Norfield, the College Chaplain at the RAF College, who conducted the Service, said:
“It was an honour to conduct today’s Service of reconciliation, and a great chance for German and British people to come together, alongside the Squadrons that were involved in the Battle of Heligoland Bight. To bring these people together, in such different circumstances, exactly 80 years after the RAF was gathering over the North Sea and the Luftwaffe were taking off, was a true blessing.”
The Battle of Heligoland Bight took place on 18th December 1939, shortly after the outbreak of World War Two. 24 RAF Wellington bombers were sent to attack shipping in the Heligoland Bight, north of Germany. The raid was a disaster for the RAF, in less than an hour 12 aircraft were shot down and 57 aircrew killed.
The service was organised by Jack Waterfall, Catherine Kesseler, and Doug Aylward, of the Heligoland39 Project.