A memorial to Royal Air Force Bomber Command stands in London's Green Park. The fitting tribute marks the Picadilly end of the royal park. Many believe it took much too long to erect such a monument to the few. The memorial is a tribute to some of the bravest RAF pilots to fly during World War Two.
55,573 airmen from Britain, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Commonwealth countries gave their lives. The Green Park memorial remembers them alongside the civilian casualties of air raids. Queen Elizabeth II unveiled the sculpture on 28th June 2012.
The Northern Ireland Connection
Two Northern Irish veterans spoke after the unveiling ceremony. Tom Long recalled the horror of bombing raids. The memories were vivid even fifty-seven years after flying his last mission.
In the target area when you were being held in a cone of searchlights, flak was bursting all around – you could hear it thump you could hear it crack. And when it cracked you could smell the cordite, so it was getting uncomfortably close. I don’t think you would know anything about it if it was any closer.
Tom Long – RAF Bomber Command
Tom’s achievements as a Bomber Command Pilot earned him a Distinguished Flying Cross Award. He flew on dozens or raids across Europe and the Middle East, surviving where many of his RAF comrades did not.
Norman Allen from Loughgall in Co. Armagh was a gunner in the later years of Bomber Command on board Lancaster and Stirling bombers. He remembers being more concerned about protecting the plane than about dying in action.
You could have somebody sleeping next to you in the hut, and they weren’t there the next day. That was it. You never heard of them again.
Norman Allen – RAF Bomber Command
Tom was part of a group of 25 who left Northern Ireland in 1939 to join the RAF when the war first broke out. Twenty of them became aircrew and only seven of them made it to the end of the war in 1945.
I turn over in my minds the fellas who I knew personally who didn’t survive and I never reach the end of the roll by the time the two minutes [silence] is up.
Tom Long – RAF Bomber Command
Bomber Command had a strong connection with Northern Ireland. 153 Squadron reformed at Ballyhalbert on 14th October 1941. The five-pointed white star from their crest features on the Northern Irish coat of arms.
Building The Bomber Command Memorial
The memorial cost more than £5.5 million. Funding came from the public, leading businessmen and musician Robin Gibb. In another connection with NI, Gilbert Ash constructed the exterior. The Portland stone came from S McConnell and Sons of Kilkeel. Liam O’Connor designed the exterior. The 9′ bronze sculpture of seven airmen was the work of Philip Jackson.
Recycled aluminium from a Royal Canadian Air Force Handley Page Halifax makes up the roof. The plane from 426 Squadron crashed in Belgium in May 1944. Three of the crew were buried with full military honours in Geraarrdsbergen in 1997.