The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund has taken responsibility for the Bomber Command Memorial. In this blog, Mike Neville, our chief of staff, discusses why the memorial is so important.
As the RAF's leading welfare charity we are immensely proud to be the guardians of the new Bomber Command Memorial. The RAF Benevolent Fund was founded back in 1919 to build the RAF Memorial in London, so in many ways this brings our stewardship of the RAF’s heritage full circle.
Of course the memorial is about far more than bricks and mortar: it is about the people who gave their lives serving in the most demanding campaign ever waged by the Royal Air Force.
In the RAF we often discuss Bomber Command, but mainly as a case study in the application of air power. While we research Bomber Command tactics and strategy in some detail, we sometimes forget the human cost at which its lessons were learned.
Over 55,000 young airmen are commemorated by this memorial, and the occasion of its unveiling presents an opportunity to reflect on the qualities of these men. I have been privileged to meet a number of Bomber Command veterans, and I am always struck by how their stories resonate.
One veteran's comment, of getting through prolonged exposure to danger by convincing himself that "it was always the other guy who would buy it", reminded me of my own thoughts at Basra airfield in 2007, when insurgents rocketed the airfield for weeks on end. It was the only way to get by. Of course my experience doesn’t compare to the unimaginable dangers these men faced.
The point is that however distant their war may seem, their spirit endures to this day, throughout the Royal Air Force. We have them to thank for our high standards of duty, our camaraderie – and what some would describe as our unique sense of humour!
We must never forget our Service’s history, because it has so much to teach us – that's why in the coming years we have plans for a range of activity related to the memorial - on our website, our popular Facebook page, and through a new mobile app.
Through these channels we aim to engage the next generation in the extraordinary story of Bomber Command, helping them learn how the 55,000 who died helped provide the freedom which we take for granted today.
I would end by saying we need your help to keep the memorial preserved for future generations. The RAF Benevolent Fund needs to raise £500,000 to ensure the security of the memorial for the coming years, and we can only do this with your help.
If you’d like to make a donation, or learn more about the memorial, visit our dedicated Bomber Command Memorial site.
Per Ardua ad Astra. We will remember them.
By Mike Neville