Senior councillors and staff at Wokingham Borough Council commemorated the 80th anniversary of The Battle of Britain on 15 September, by raising a special flag at the Civic Offices at Shute End.
Leader of the Council John Halsall, former Royal Air Force (RAF) member Cllr Carl Doran, and Chief Executive Susan Parsonage raised the RAF Ensign in tribute to the men and women, from all corners of the globe, who risked their lives flying as well as supporting the crews on the ground during the Second World War.
By September 1940 the Luftwaffe was convinced the RAF was on its last legs and believed one final flurry of destructive raids planned for the 15th – a knockout blow - would see the RAF's few remaining fighters destroyed leaving the coast clear for the Nazi leadership’s invasion of Britain.
But the RAF proved them wrong by mounting a strong defence, despite its depleted numbers, resulting in large losses for the Germans on that day leading to the invasion being indefinitely postponed on 17 September 1940.
“The RAF Benevolent Fund carried out a survey this summer which found that 44% of those asked didn't know about The Battle of Britain,” said Cllr Halsall.
“I think that marking any anniversary is a great way of educating people about historical events but this particular event is a pivotal part of our history and, indeed, world history.”
Cllr Doran said: “While I want to remember the sacrifices made by the pilots of fighter command who were drawn from all social backgrounds and all corners of the world, I also want to honour the others who made victory possible.
“The pilots, who Winston Churchill famously referred to as, ‘the few’ were the spearhead but the rest of the spear was made up of ground crews, radar operators, WAAF map plotters, tanker drivers, flying instructors, communications engineers, aircraft workers, telephonists, runway repair crews, NAAFI tea ladies and airfield defence teams.
“The Battle was won by the team, and today is about thanking and paying tribute to every single one of them.”
Both of Cllr Doran’s grandfathers served in the RAF during that war, and he joined the RAF at 18 where he served for ten years as a radar and telecommunications technician. His brother is also in the RAF and is about to complete 30 years of service.
Cllrs Angus Ross and Gary Cowan are also former RAF serving airmen.
Cllr Ross, said: “After spending 20 years as a pilot in the RAF, I can still barely appreciate how so few so young and so inexperienced pilots were able to perform so magnificently in The Battle of Britain. We still owe them an immense debt of gratitude. I think of them every time I hear a Spitfire or Hurricane in our skies; such a beautiful sight but a great reminder of the Few."
Cllr Cowan, said: “I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to Wokingham Borough Council for raising the flag at the Council Offices in remembrance of the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.”