A special Battle of Britain service was held at Westminster Abbey today as the culmination of a week of events held by the RAF to commemorate the 80th anniversary of this crucial battle in World War 2. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the service was reduced in stature but not in spirit. This service included a reading from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, CBE.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the first decisive battle in history fought entirely in the air. Battle of Britain Sunday commemorates a dramatic turning point in both the battle itself, and the history of the Second World War.
Service highlights included:
- The Royal Air Force Ensign was borne through the church, presented, and laid upon the High Altar accompanied by the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment
- Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston CBE ADC RAF, Chief of the Air Staff and Prime Minster Boris Johnson gave readings
- During the Act of Remembrance the Battle of Britain Roll of Honour, which has the names of 1,497 pilots and aircrew killed or mortally wounded in the Battle, was borne through the church, escorted by the Squadron Standards of the former Battle of Britain Squadrons and a contingent of RAF Cadets
- The Venerable (Air Vice-Marshal) John Ellis QHC RAF Chaplain-in-Chief of the Royal Air Force gave the Address
- The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, The Dean of Westminster led the Act of Rededication
- The Call of the Royal Air Force, the Last Post and Reveille closed the service
- The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight performed a fly-past of three Spitfires and one Hurricane over the Abbey following the service
The service was led by The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, Dean of Westminster with music sung by the Choir of Westminster Abbey, conducted by James O’Donnell, Organist and Master of the Choristers. The organ was be played by Peter Holder, Sub-Organist.
Minister of Defence People and Veterans, Johnny Mercer and the Minister for Defence Procurement, Jeremy Quin also joined the service.
The Battle of Britain took place between 10th July to 31st October 1940. On 15th September 1940 the Luftwaffe launched a massive assault in the skies over Britain. It was a day of heavy fighting, and the Luftwaffe suffered significant casualties. It was a decisive defeat for the Luftwaffe, and since then this date has been celebrated as ‘Battle of Britain Day’.
544 RAF aircrew were killed during the Battle of Britain. 312 RAF personnel were killed on the ground, as RAF stations were often targets for Luftwaffe bombing. It was the first major battle fought entirely in the air, and the first military defeat suffered by Nazi Germany.