Service in Horsham to mark Battle of Britain

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Battle of Britain Week, September 14 – 20, will soon be here and I write this to urge everyone who can make a donation to the Wings Appeal to do so.

This money goes towards providing Welfare support to those who have served in all branches of the Royal Air Force at any time in their life. It also includes spouses, so widows and widowers fall within the RAF Family.

A Battle of Britain 75th anniversary commemoration parade and service will take place at 10.30am in the Carfax, Horsham on Sunday September 14.

A wreath laying ceremony will take place at 10.45am followed by a church service at St Mary’s in the Causeway. The Wings Appeal Collection will take place at the end of the previous week.

As time passes the numbers who need help increases and cost for welfare also increases. Please reflect on my appeal and consider what follows. Thank you.

Following the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Forces from Dunkirk in May 1940, Hitler could not follow up with crossing the English Channel for three reasons.

Firstly he wanted to secure his hold on France and also continued to hope Britain, seeing Europe fall under the German advance, would agree to a peace.

Secondly, the barges and boats he needed to ferry his troops to the South Coast of England were not ready, and lastly, this invasion fleet would be at the mercy of the Royal Navy on the sea and the Royal Air Force overhead.

To control the Channel and defend the landing force Germany needed to have command of the skies. On 1st August 1940 the order came from Hitler to smash the RAF by bombing airfields and aircraft factories. The Battle of Britain had begun.

Since 1938, Britain had developed and improved RADAR. This network of pylons enabled early warning of incoming enemy aircraft which meant RAF fighters could be “scambled” and high in the sky to challenge the unsuspecting German planes.

This was one advantage Britain had, the other was when pilots “ditched” into the Channel a search and rescue could be undertaken and the pilots returned to their squadrons to continue the fight.

The two famous stars which became known the world over were the Supermarine Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane. The most famous German fighter was the Messerschmitt 109.

‘The Hardest Day’, 18th August 1940 was the date when Germany made a concerted effort to knock the RAF out of the sky and the airfields off the map. Men and machines of the RAF were continuously defending the South Coast airfields of Kent, Surrey ad Sussex, landing to re-arm and re-fuel before getting back into the sky to continue the fight.

On 20th August, in a speech by Winston Churchill these brave pilots became known as ‘the Few’. There were less than 3,000 of them and 510 were killed. Most were British but others were from the Commonwealth, and Czechs, Poles and Belgians who had escaped to continue the fight.

Then Germany accidentally bombed London. Two nights later the RAF bombed Berlin. Hitler was so infuriated he changed his orders and diverted his bombers to London.

‘The Blitz’ began and the ‘now famous local airfields of Biggin Hill, Kenley, Tangmere etc were able to quickly repair and rebuild and the exhausted fighter pilots recover from their fatigue.

The RAF now had sufficient control of the sky, the German Navy refused to launch the planned invasion and in the Autumn it was cancelled.

If the Battle of Britain had been lost, the consequences would be too awful to think about. We know what happened in other invaded countries.

Why would Britain be any different? Concentration camps, loss of democracy, freedom of speech, religion, to name but a few.

There would have been no D-Day, USA and Canada would have been isolated on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and Hitler would have sent all his troops to the East and Russia would probably fallen too.

All this happened 75 years ago and our lives would be very different to what we have now without the continued sacrifices these brave pilots and their ground support made..

We celebrate our freedom and remember this historical event on 15th September every year but as the years go by ‘The Few’ become less and “the Battle of Britain” is in danger of becoming just history. This cannot happen, “We will remember them” is the same as saying “We must not forget them”.