In the last few years, towards the end of June, we have celebrated Armed Forces Day in which we pay tribute to the service of men and women in the British Armed Forces. Although in Lincoln the day was moved to a week earlier to avoid a clash, in Waddington the national day was marked last weekend in splendid fashion with the RAF’s largest airshow – many of you will have seen some of the aircraft practicing in our skies before Saturday and Sunday’s displays.
This event gained special significance this year as we also saw the unveiling by Her Majesty the Queen, of a national memorial to Bomber Command in London last Thursday, a service which was also attended by Prince Charles, nearly 800 former members of Bomber Command and many relatives of those who served in Bomber Command during the Second World War. The opening was also marked by a flyover of five Tornado bombers and the last flying Lancaster in Britain from the BBMF at RAF Coningsby, which delivered a stream of poppies from its bomb-bay that slowly drifted towards the ground.
The airmen of RAF Bomber Command and their families have been waiting nearly seventy years for proper public recognition for their role during the Second World War – a role in which nearly 56,000 airmen of Bomber command paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country and whose valour was recognised with 19 Victoria Crosses, the highest military honour in the British Armed Forces. Such was the scale of risk, that of the 128,000 volunteers, 60% were either killed, wounded or taken prisoner by the enemy.
The Bomber Command Association has campaigned for many years for this recognition and as I have been involved in this Campaign over recent years, I was especially pleased that a number of Members of Parliament felt able to support my Early Day Motion (EDM 104) that I sponsored in Parliament, which honours this role of the RAF during WW2. I am pleased that we now have a national memorial which pays tribute to the bravery of these fine men, of whom Air Chief Marshall Harris wrote ‘There is no parallel in warfare to such courage and determination in the face of danger over so prolonged a period …such devotion must never be forgotten’.
Lincolnshire had over 100 active airfields during the Second World War, and even now the RAF has six operational stations (this is an impressive number for a single County to hold in contemporary times). The aviation industry also continues to provide a considerable source of employment for our area, and in addition to the military personnel based at RAF Waddington, Scampton and elsewhere, we have a number of cutting-edge technical hardware and software companies such as Northrop Grumman and Inzpire, which support the various aspects of our Country’s military capability.
The London Bomber Command Memorial has particular resonance for us in Lincolnshire given that our County is still known as ‘Bomber County’ and it will come as no surprise to learn we have a memorial book in Lincoln Cathedral for this particular section of the RAF. Our proud aviation heritage is also why I fully support the Lord Lieutenant’s plan to have a public memorial near South Park Common to Bomber Command; and why I think that as we remember Armed Forces Day this year, we can really celebrate the proud military history, and future, of our City and County.