It’s 90 years to the day that the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service were merged to form the Royal Air Force (RAF). There are a great many war memorials that commemorate the members and actions of the RAF – over 800 if we search the database for ‘RAF’.
One notable, recent memorial (unveiled in 2005) is the Battle of Britain Memorial on Victoria Embankment, London. It features friezes cast in bronze depicting scenes from the Battle, during 1940. These include: pilots at rest; members of the Observer Corps watching for an attack; ground crews arming hurricanes; pilots scrambling; pilots sharing stories in the mess hall; hop pickers in Kent watching an aerial battle; anti-aircraft gunners; women working in an aircraft factory; a pilot closely pursued by a Luftwaffe plane; St Paul’s Cathedral surrounded by smoke from the Blitz; people searching the ruins after an air raid; and a family making tea in an Anderson shelter. The memorial also lists the names of 2935 members of the RAF who served or died during the Battle of Britain.
Also in London, you will find many RAF memorials in St Clement Danes church. The church was gutted by fire in 1941 and rebuilt by the RAF to become their central church, commemorating personnel killed on active service.
Another very significant memorial is the Air Forces Memorial to the Missing at Runnymede, built and managed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It is a large shrine that commemorates over 20,000 airmen by name, who were lost in the Second World War during operations from bases in the United Kingdom and North and Western Europe, and who have no known graves.
On a window of the shrine, is a poem written by Paul H Scott.
The first rays of the dawning sun
Shall touch its pillars,
And as the day advances
And the light grows stronger,
You shall read the names
Engraved on the stone
Of those who sailed on the angry sky
And saw harbour no more
No gravestone in yew-dark churchyard
Shall mark their resting place
Their bones lie in the forgotten corners
Of earth and sea.
But, that we may not lose their memory
With fading years, their monument stands here,
Here, where the trees troop down to Runnymede.
Meadow of Magna Carta, field of freedom,
Never saw you so fitting a memorial,
Proof that the principals established here
Are still dear to the hearts of men.
Here they now stand, contrasted and alike,
The field if freedom’s birth, and the memorial
To freedom’s winning.
As the evening comes,
And mists, like quiet ghosts, rise from the river bed,
And climb the hill to wander through the cloisters,
We shall not forget them. Above the mist
We shall see the memorial still, and over it
The crown and single star. And we shall pray
As the mists rise up and the air grows dark
That we may wear
As brave a heart as they.