Today marks 75 years since the RAF's now legendary Dambusters set off on their audacious raid to destroy three German dams at the heart of the Nazi war machine.
Fifty-three pairs of gloves laid out by the RAF Benevolent Fund at the Bomber Command Memorial were a stark reminder of the lives lost that night, the families left without a loved one. RAF Chaplain Michael Chatfield paid tribute to the 133 brave airmen who set off on the raid in 1943 and RAF bugler Corporal Andrew Lofthouse signalled a minute's silence with the Last Post.
RAF Benevolent Fund Director of Fundraising and Communications John Trampleasure laid a wreath in memory of the airmen killed.
He said: "Commemorations like these are an opportunity for us as a nation to pause and reflect on the sacrifice of those brave men and women who defended our country 75 years ago. I am proud to know the RAF Benevolent Fund supported many of the families left bereaved by the raid and continues to support all RAF veterans, serving personnel and their families."
Jill Owen's father Sgt Laurie Nichols was killed in the raid, on his 33rd birthday. She was just two years old. Jill said: "My father volunteered for that raid, I've always been very proud of his contribution but I did feel like I missed out. Life was very different after he passed away – it was harder for my mother, of course. My brother and I were educated thanks to the RAF Benevolent Fund which I know was a great comfort to her. I think the Bomber Command Memorial is incredible, a real tribute. And it is fitting that 617 Squadron is now taking on all of those new planes too."
Bomber Command historian and RAF Benevolent Fund Ambassador Steve Darlow said: "Those brave men got in their Lancasters night after night and took the fight to the Germans. It's hard to imagine what it must have been like for them. Today's tribute is a fitting way to remember not just the Dambusters crews but all who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms today."
The RAF Benevolent Fund has also opened a Book of Gratitude for members of the public to send their messages of thanks and tributes to Great Britain's last surviving Dambuster. Leave a message for our Book of Gratitude today.