Planes & pulpit: Harry and Edward mark 75th anniversary of Battle of Britain

Today, Prince Harry and Prince Edward marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain by watching a flypast and attending church respectively.

Harry, who turns 31 today, was schedule to be part of the flypast of historic aircraft over the south coast, but unfortunately, one of them broke down. Instead, the Prince, sporting a beard since his return from working in Africa, gave his spot to Battle of Britain veteran Tom Neil, 95, and two injured servicemen, to fly in his place.

Prince Harry at Battle of Britain 75th anniversary flypast, Picture by Stephen Lock / i-Images

Prince Harry at Battle of Britain 75th anniversary flypast, Picture by Stephen Lock / i-Images

Neil is one the last remaining fighter Aces, meaning he gunned down more than five enemy during the war. He took part in 140 missions, downed 14 enemy planes, and holds two Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Air Force Cross for his service to the country.

The Battle of Britain was the fight for airspace during the Second World War, with Britain expecting an imminent invasion, the Nazis having pushed their way through France. Before Hitler could conquer the country he needed to gain air superiority, and so in July 1940, the Luftwaffe launched a large scale attack to wipe out Britain’s air defenses.

In numbers, the RAF was greatly disadvantaged, but the persistence and skill of the pilots and those assisting them on the ground, ensured the Germans defeat.

By October, the RAF was victorious over their German counterparts, and Hitler and the German high command called off his invasion plans. Instead, the air force began to bomb British cities.

Earlier this year, senior members of the Royal Family gathered for another flypast at Buckingham Palace.

It was the success and effort of the RAF that led Prime Minister Winston Churchill to remark “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few,” now a historic quote.

A fleet of just under 40 Hurricanes, Spitfires and Blenheims took to the skies over the south of England, the largest gathering of WWII aircraft since the war. The take off was two hours late, however, due to bad weather.

The planes eventually landed at WW2 airfields including Biggin Hill, Duxford, Northweald and Northolt.

It is the Boultbee Academy, based at Goodwood, Chichester, which allowed the veterans to take part, thanks to the Spitfire Scholarship; it was set up in partnership with the Royal Foundation’s Endeavour Fund, the foundation being a joint charity of Harry and William and Catherine. 

The Fund which offers funding for sporting and adventure challenges to wounded injured and sick servicemen and women, and was launched the Prince launched last year.

The Duke of Gloucester watched the flypast in Swindon, Wiltshire to commemorate the occasion, likely the last big anniversary many of the veterans will be fit to take part.

The Earl of Wessex meanwhile, attended a service at St Paul’s Cathedral, alongside Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour’s new leader Jeremy Corbyn, the latter of whom unashamedly refused to sing the National Anthem.

The service was organised by the RAF Association, and a scale-model Spitfire was positioned at the west front of the building to commemorate ‘the Many’ who supported ‘the Few’.
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