Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Britain, which began on 10 July 1940 and continued until September that same year. There are many memorials that commemorate the huge effort of defending Britain, ranging from memorials to individual pilots and service personnel to national memorials such as the large Battle of Britain memorial at Victoria Embankment in London, unveiled by HRH Prince of Wales in 2005.
This inscription on a memorial tablet from RAF Lakenheath describes what the Battle of Britain meant to the Royal Air Force.
This memorial is dedicated to the airmen of many nations who flew with the RAF during the Battle of Britain and served in the heavens so that others might live. In July 1940, Hitler’s Luftwaffe began an aerial siege of England aimed at destroying the Royal Air Force in preparation for a cross channel assault by the German Army and Navy. Outnumbered sometimes four to one, exhausted pilots of the RAF met the aerial armada flying thousands of sorties, day after day, night after night, to ensure Great Britain’s very survival. By the end of September the RAF had inflicted crippling losses on the Luftwaffe, destroying over 1880 enemy aircraft, thereby forcing Hitler to cancel his invasion plans of the British Isles. Although fewer in number, the RAF losses were disproportionately higher. More that 530 airmen paid the ultimate sacrifice, some even ramming enemy aircraft when their own guns jammed or ammunition ran out. After the Battle, the British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, immortalized those airmen that flew during the Battle of Britain with the following words: …if the British Empire and its commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say “this was their finest hour”.
The memorial was dedicated by the Battle of Britain Fighter Association and the 48th Fighter Wing in 1997.