Battle of Britain Day is being commemorated across the UK today, eighty years on from the decisive battle that saw an outnumbered RAF force repel the Luftwaffe.
The Battle took place over the skies of southern England between July and October 1940. However, September 15 saw the RAF gain a decisive victory over 1,120 German aircraft sent to attack London during daylight. 630 RAF fighter aircraft fought off the Luftwaffe, and two days later Hitler postponed his plan to invade Britain.
544 RAF aviators and 312 RAF ground personnel lost their lives during the battle and the airmen became known as “The Few” following a tribute by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who said: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”.
Despite Covid-19 limitations, special exhibitions from the Imperial War Museum, a radar-based lightshow and the addition of several new “unusual” sites to the National Heritage List, will celebrate the contributions of those involved.
Alternating Union and RAF Ensign flags will fly on The Mall, from September 15 to 20, the Ministry of Defence said.
The annual Westminster Abbey Battle of Britain service is still due to take place on September 20, though attendance will be reduced.
The MOD, in collaboration with the National Archives and the RAF Museum, has also produced a special episode of the On The Record podcast, called Untold Battle of Britain.
The episode focuses on lesser-known figures from the battle, including two pilots who enlisted from overseas, to highlight the wider efforts of those who contributed to the military campaign.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The Battle of Britain is one of the nation’s greatest and most important victories.
“For more than 100 years the Royal Air Force has defended the UK, and 80 years ago, alongside our allies, they experienced one of their toughest endeavours.
“This anniversary provides an opportunity for us all to honour those involved and reflect on their bravery and the unimaginable sacrifices they made to ensure freedom for future generations.”
Elsewhere, an aircraft hangar has been transformed into part of an exhibition at Imperial War Museum Duxford, The Ops Block: Battle of Britain, on the site of a Sector Station that was active during the conflict. It opens its doors today.
A special radar tribute highlighting the achievements of women and other “unsung heroes” will form the centre point of celebrations run by the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund (RAFBF).
The lightshow will take place at two sites, RAF Bawdsey, a former radar station in Suffolk, and RAF Buchan, a former RAF station near Peterhead.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has meanwhile listed four new heritage sites that will have special protections due to their historical significance. They include a colourful air raid shelter in Surrey and a disguised bunker in Northumberland.