RAF News

New memorial unveiled in France to wartime Allied aircrew

Personnel stand by memorial.

A new memorial commemorating the Allied aircrew of World War One and World War Two has been unveiled at Roderen, Haut-Rhin in eastern France. 

The memorial was commissioned by a local organising committee that was led by former French Air Force Officer Pierre-Alain Antoine, who designed, raised the funds and oversaw the building of the new memorial.

Memorial with speech stand and flags.

Originally conceived as a monument to one of the first US citizens to die during the First World War as a pilot, the organising committee quickly realised that many aircrew from the Allied national had died in the area during both World Wars and so the monument became a memorial to all of the lost and tells their individual stories.

Personnel stand by memorial with speech stand.

The unveiling was attended by Mr Sandy Moss, the UK’s Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe based at nearby Strasburg and Group Captain Antony McCord, the UK’s Air Attaché in Paris.

Flags flying by the memorial with Personnel and audience.

Also in attendance was the US Consul General and representatives of the Air Attaches from the US, Canada and Australia together with local dignitaries, veterans groups and many children from the area.  They were also joined by relatives of some of the fallen including an Australian couple who had travelled to witness the unveiling.

Mr Moss explained during an address at unveiling his own connection to the area.

"I came to your beautiful region for the first time to work in children’s holiday camps near Colmar.  Those that had been involved in the war were getting old, but one day one of the local farmers came to talk about the war.  He told us how his family had hidden a pilot whose plane had been destroyed.  He told the children how a man had fallen from the skies.  His family had hosted him for a few nights, before he left to cross France, helped along the way by French resistance fighters, to Spain and then Gibraltar to return to the United Kingdom.  His message was clear, France was not alone.

Mr Sandy Moss
UK’s Permanent Representative Council of Europe

Flags flying by the memorial with Personnel and audience.

Mr Moss continued: "The UK, Free French and the Resistance played a very important role and forged military ties that have lasted for a century and endure and strengthen today.  But the UK was not alone either, Commonwealth countries also provided military personnel.  I would like to end on the role of the RAF throughout the war.  In 1940, the RAF had significant losses attacking the German bridgeheads on the Meuse at Sedan.  Despite these losses, the airmen continued to fly over France, whether between 1941 and 43, or to support D-DAY in 1944.  I wanted to stress again that the whole Commonwealth also played a very important role.  A lot of Air Force training took place in Commonwealth and included airmen from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), India and the Caribbean."

"Thousands of airmen lost their lives, here in France and elsewhere.  You will find their graves - sometimes named, sometimes unnamed, in cemeteries all over northern France.  These cemeteries, managed so well by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, remind us of that time.  And I hope that by unveiling this monument, we and future generations will remember that these people, from all over the world, gave so much for us, for our peace and for our freedom."

Mr Sandy Moss
UK’s Permanent Representative Council of Europe

The ceremony was closed by a flypast of French, United States and RAF aircraft to commemorate the sacrifices made by the aviators of the nations.

Flypast with four aircraft in formation.

The US citizen that inspired the memorial originally was Kiffin Rockwell.  He had originally joined the French military in 1914 and by 1916 he had become one of the first US pilots to be trained by the French and flew with the newly formed Lafayette Escadrille a French led but US manned aviation unit of the French military.  Rockwell was shot down and died on the 23rd September 1916.

Using Internet Explorer 8? Please switch to using Chrome if you can.