A spectacular RAF Flypast took place over London this morning, marking 75 years since the start of the Battle of Britain.
The majestic display formed part of an enhanced Changing the Guard ceremony and The Queen, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh and other senior royals, watched on from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
The Duke of Cambridge, The Duke of York, The Earl and Countess of Wessex, The Dukes of Gloucester and Kent, Prince Michael of Kent and Princess Alexandra were also present as the ten aircraft – four Spitfires, two Hurricanes and four Typhoons – were watched by hundreds on the ground below.
The Battle of Britain ranks alongside the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo as one of the most significant in British history. It was the first major battle in history fought entirely in the air and was the first significant strategic defeat for the Nazis during World War II.
10 July is widely acknowledged as the start of the battle, when German Luftwaffe began attacked shipping convoys off the south-east coast of England. Today’s Flypast was a poignant reminder for the six remaining RAF pilots who flew during the Battle, all of whom were watching from the forecourt of Buckingham Palace this morning.
14 enemy aircraft were shot down by the RAF on that day and 23 were severely damaged. Their victory led to the Allies’s liberation of Western Europe and eventual defeat of the Nazis.
Today’s anniversary is likely to be the last at which the veterans – dubbed ‘The Few’ by Winston Churchill – will be fit to take part.
The RAF Queen’s Colour Squadron led the Guard Change, with the RAF’s Central and Regiment bands providing music for the occasion. The Squadron, based at RAF Northolt, is the custodian of the Queen’s Colour for the Royal Air Force and represents the force at most major ceremonial events.
There are eight Battle of Britain squadrons still serving in the RAF today and each of their military Standards were carried during this morning’s ceremony.
Leading the Flypast in one of the Spitfires, Squadron Leader Duncan Mason said:
‘For us, taking part today was an incredible honour.
‘Events like these don’t often happen, but today gave us – the RAF and the nation – the opportunity to commemorate and recognise those extraordinary feats 75 years ago.
‘Knowing six Battle of Britain veteran pilots were watching us flying the same aircraft they won the battle in was humbling and I hope we did them proud.’
After the last plane had flown over the Palace, The Queen’s Colour Squadron performed the rare Feu de Joie, or ‘Fire of Joy’ – a cascade of rifle fire given as a salute.
The national anthem was played and Warrant Officer Clive Martland led the Three Cheers for The Queen.
Following the Flypast, the ‘Few’ mixed with their young Typhoon jet pilot counterparts and were joined by members of the Royal Family for a short photo call before a lunch and reception at the RAF Club on London’s Piccadilly.
photo credits: Crown Copyright 2015, Sgt Neil Bryden RAF