23 October 2023
The Commonwealth War Graves Foundation hosted an event to mark the 70th anniversary of the unveiling of the Runnymede Air Forces Memorial in Surrey.
The memorial was originally unveiled by the late Queen Elizabeth II on 17 October 1953. It commemorates by name more than 20,000 men and women of the air forces, who were lost in the Second World War during operations from bases in the United Kingdom and North and Western Europe, and who have no known graves.
These men and women served in Bomber, Fighter, Coastal, Transport, Flying Training and Maintenance Commands, and came from all parts of the Commonwealth. Some were from countries in continental Europe which had been overrun but whose airmen continued to fight in the ranks of the Royal Air Force.
More than 130 individuals from across the country attended the event. This included members of the Armed Forces, local dignitaries, and friends of the Foundation.
“The 70th anniversary service was a fantastic event, added to by the beautiful and picturesque surroundings and the incredible display by both the Kings’ Colour Squadron and the band of the Royal Air Force Regiment,” said Michele Jennings, the Director of the Foundation at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. “It was wonderful to meet so many likeminded people, and to share the stories of those remembered at this magnificent memorial. The evening was every bit as special as we had hoped for.”
The service included hymns, a wreath-laying ceremony, speeches and culminated in a sunset ceremony. A replica Spitfire was on display throughout, and newly-installed lighting gloriously lit up the memorial.
At the anniversary event, Commonwealth War Graves Foundation (CWGF) supporter Mr Alastair Kerr was thanked for his 'extremely generous' contribution that paid for new lighting to illuminate the memorial.
The memorial was designed by Sir Edward Maufe with sculpture by Vernon Hill. The engraved glass and painted ceilings were designed by John Hutton and the poem engraved on the gallery window was written by Paul H Scott.
For more information about the CWGF and the work it does to help keep the memories of the fallen alive, please visit the CWGF website.
(Report and image courtesy CWGF).