From young Air Cadets to veteran airmen they paraded on Bury St Edmunds’ Angel Hill to mark the 75th anniversary of the triumph of the men Churchill christened ‘The Few’.
The annual commemorative parade is held on the Sunday falling closest to September 15, Battle of Britain Day – the day on which 75 years ago, Hitler finally realised he had lost the aerial battle to gain supremacy over the skies of southern England.
On that day – also a Sunday – the Luftwaffe, thinking it had crushed RAF Fighter Command,launched a 1,500 aircraft raid on London but the Hurricanes and Spitfires proved them wrong and little damage was done. Soon afterwards, Hitler postponed the invasion of Britain.
In August, at the height of the battle, prime minister Winston Churchill told the Commons: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day.”
On Sunday people turned out to show that all hearts still go out to those men.
The parade formed up in the Abbey Gardens and, led by RAF Honington’s Station Volunteer Band, marched to St Mary’s Church for a commemorative service.
Afterwards, a march past on Angel Hill with the salute being taken by RAF Honington Station Commander, Group Captain Mick Smeath, and the Mayor of St Edmundsbury, Councillor Patrick Chung.
American airmen from Lakenheath and Mildenhall also took part, not only marking the USAF’s 68th birthday last week, but remembering the US pilots who volunteered to fly with the RAF in contravention of their homeland’s neutrality laws. It is known seven American pilots flew with the RAF in 1940 but at least four more claimed to be Canadians to volunteer.
Air Cadets from both 301 (Bury St Edmunds) and 863 (Thurston) Air Training Corps squadrons took part in the parade as well as ex-service organisations for all the services.