The Battle of Britain Memorial Service – by Claire Lorrimer
Posted on: 26/08/2014 with tags: author blog, Battle of Britain, Claire Lorrimer, history, memorial, world war II
Eight weeks ago, I was asked to lay a wreath at the Battle of Britain Memorial on the cliffs above Folkestone at Capel-Le-Ferne. It was an emotional day as I had served in the WAAF – the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force – during the war. Not only had I lost two young cousins in those desperate air battles when we were on the brink of invasion, but in 1944 the Lancaster bomber pilot I was hoping to marry when the war was over, did not return from one of the dangerous bombing raids when one in five planes did not return from a sortie.
On Sunday 20th July, we were remembering the 10th July 1940, the first day of the Battle of Britain. The wind was sweeping across the fields which we crossed on foot to reach the big marquee where two hundred of us guests had been invited to lunch. The wind and subsequent heavy downpour of rain somehow added to the poignancy of the occasion. There was an ATC band playing wartime marches and wartime songs as I arrived with my escort. There were parades, speeches and eventually a fly-past by a Spitfire and a Hurricane which brought back memories of watching the dog fights – as the aerial combats were called – in the sky over my home in Sussex in 1940. Although I had been up in both a Lancaster bomber and a Flying Fortress during the war, I had never flown in a Spitfire or Hurricane and the sight of them brought back memories of so many who had lost their lives in order to ensure we all could keep our country free.
There were speeches about the sacrifice of the lives of those we were remembering, and a moving poem before the many wreaths were individually placed. When it came to my turn to lay my wreath, I suppose it was wrong of me but I could not help thinking of my cousins and friends, wondering if they were watching this solemn ceremony or if they would have preferred to spend the afternoon in a bar with us with a few rounds of beer, perhaps singing Vera Lynn’s No. 1 wartime song about the white cliffs of Dover, or, if there were no ladies present, something a little risky which would have them forgetting the dangers of the day and make them laugh.
When the Last Post was played, as always it brought tears to my eyes and I thought of my father who was in the appalling trenches in the First World War and was so horribly wounded.
The news channels and newspapers were, of course, filled with other such memorial services but somehow this one seemed special. Although the weather was disappointing, I am so glad I was invited to be present as, for just a few hours, I felt especially close to my own loved ones whose courage and dedication kept the world safe for you and me.
Find out more about Claire Lorrimer and her novels on the Hodder & Stoughton website here.