On Sunday 22nd May 2022, the Royal Air Force paused to commemorate the men and women from the Commonwealth Air Forces, who lost their lives during the Second World War and have no known grave.
RAF Northolt personnel held a service to pay their respects to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom today at the Runnymede Memorial, near Egham, Surrey,
The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, along with the RAF Northolt Station Commander, Group Captain McPhaden, and ex-Service representatives laid wreaths at the Memorial. Members of the RAF Widows’ Association, War Widows Association of Great Britain and the Jewish Military Association UK, laid flowers, and a Star of David.
The Queen’s Colour Squadron lined the route, and music was provided by The Band of the RAF Regiment and the RAF Salon Orchestra. Those attending were then invited to sing hymns, before the iconic and poignant sound of The Last Post, performed by Senior Aircraftman Bailey, played out and all paused in silence to reflect.
A Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster provided a flypast, before guests were invited to a post-ceremonial reception at the De Vere Beaumont Hotel.
Designed by Sir Edward Maufe, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's Principal Architect for the United Kingdom after the Second World War, the memorial is dedicated to some 20,458 men and women from across the Commonwealth, who fought for the RAF and allies against Nazi German occupation.
Personnel from the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India are commemorated on the walls of the memorial, as well as members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, Ferry Command, the Air Transit Auxiliary, the British Overseas Airways Corporation, and the Air Training Corps.
Below are a few of their acts of bravery and determination in the face of danger; stories that give a glimpse of the price paid for our freedom.
Flying Officer Clifford Frank Bull, Royal Canadian Air Force, 38 Squadron
Bull displayed incredible skill and fine leadership flying anti-submarine patrols. During a sortie, Bull led an attack on a ship in the Aegean waters before his aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire. He courageously persevered to return fire and complete his mission with success.
Flying Officer Lawrence Francis Marshall Cronin, Royal Australian Air Force, 81 Squadron
Cronin was a courageous fighter. He displayed great skill and gallantry during a dangerous air operation in which he destroyed at least five enemy aircraft.
Pilot Officer John Chatterton, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 44 Squadron
During a sortie against Leipzig, a fragment of shrapnel shattered Chatterton’s windscreen. Despite intense cold winds blowing through his aircraft, Chatterton battled against the wind and enemy targets to ensure the success of his mission.
Pilot Office John Alfred Sanders, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 49 Squadron
Sanders aircrew was attacked while flying to Augsburg. Large holes were torn in the fuselage, while the starboard rudder and elevator were almost shot away. His severely damaged aircraft burst into flames, yet Sanders managed to regain control and return the crew back to base despite the raging fire and explosions.
Warrant Officer Jeremiah Michael O'Leary, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 114 Squadron
Warrant Officer O'Leary was an air gunner with deadly precision and unflinching bravery. During an operation, a large group of enemy ground troops and vehicles fired at his light anti-aircraft. O’Leary persevered, and returned fire with his machine gun fire before the aircraft completed the bomb run.