Friday 15th September 2023
To mark Battle of Britain Day on 15 September, a group of the last remaining Second World War veterans gathered for an afternoon at Biggin Hill, home to the Battle of Britain.
The meet was co-facilitated by the RAF’s leading welfare charity, the RAF Benevolent Fund and the team at Biggin Hill Airport, who welcomed the veterans to walk around the Strongest Link Garden, designed by John Everiss, originally showcased at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2022, and catch up with each other over tea and cake.
The 15 September 1940 was officially named Battle of Britain Day as it was the day when RAF Fighter Command claimed what proved to be a decisive victory over the German Luftwaffe.
The Battle of Britain was one of the most decisive battles of the Second World War, characterised by the brutal dogfights of the Allied Forces and Luftwaffe in the skies above Britain. The Royal Air Force was outnumbered and in retreat once Hitler’s troops had marched across Europe. It was the turning point for the German forces, the beginning of the end of their plans for domination.
George Pritchard, 100, finds Battle of Britain Day particularly poignant as he remembers the friends he lost during the war. George said:
“I worked in a factory making cardboard ammunition boxes at Croydon Airport. Because I was under 18, I couldn’t work overtime, so I was sent home by the foreman. When I got home, I was sat in the garden with a cup of tea overlooking the airfield and that was then bombed. I went down to see and the factory I was working in had been bombed – all the staff, all my friends, had been killed. This determined me at 17 and a quarter to join the RAF.”
Bob Greig, beneficiary, and Ambassador of the Fund said:
“Battle of Britain Day is a day to pay our respects to those who paid the ultimate price to ensure a better society, one that we are all living today.”
Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliot, Controller of the RAF Benevolent Fund, said:
“After months of a protracted air battle between the Royal Air Force and the German Luftwaffe, on this day, 15 September 1940, the German Luftwaffe launched a massive and coordinated air assault on Britain. Wave after wave of bombers and fighter aircraft were sent to attack key targets, including London. Against all odds, pilots from the Royal Air Force and Allied Air Forces inflicted heavy losses on the Luftwaffe, forcing them to change their tactics.
“This day, Battle of Britain Day, serves as a moment of reflection to remember the bravery and sacrifice of those RAF pilots and our those of our allies who defended our skies during this critical period and ultimately our freedoms. The RAF Benevolent Fund is proud to offer our continued support to the RAF Family, and to commemorate such an important anniversary in the company of veterans at Biggin Hill, which played a central role in the Battle, is an honour for the Fund.”