29 June 2012
Mr Dick Lempriere of Welllington meets HRH Prince Charles after the ceremony
The 1,851 New Zealanders who died while serving with the RAF Bomber Command during the Second World War were honoured by their friends and colleagues at the dedication and unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial by Her Majesty the Queen in London today (28 June GMT).
New Zealand was represented at the ceremony by a delegation of 32 veterans of the Royal New Zealand Air Force who are now aged between 87 and 94 years of age. This is the oldest and one of the largest New Zealand delegations to travel to an overseas commemoration.
Twenty-four members of the Royal Family attended the ceremony with the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall spending time with veterans, including those from New Zealand, after the ceremony.
One of the veterans, Ron Mayhill, aged 88 of Remuera, is pleased those who died serving Bomber Command are being recognised after nearly 70 years.
"We are here to honour our dead and the many friends and colleagues we lost. While the war was horrific the bonds of comradeship tie those who remain closely together."
Chief of Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Peter Stockwell, who is leading the delegation on behalf of the New Zealand Defence Force and Veterans’ Affairs, says, "It has been a privilege to bring this group of brave men who served New Zealand well to the ceremony to receive the recognition and thanks they so richly deserved. These surviving men are national treasures."
The ceremony concluded with a flyover of four Tornado fighter jets and a Lancaster dropping poppies below.
The 70m long Memorial designed by architect Liam O’Connor, includes a bronze sculpture crafted by Philip Jackson, of a Bomber Command aircrew of seven looking up towards the sky.
Nearly 6000 members of the RNZAF served with Bomber Command, whose mission was the strategic bombing of key targets in Europe that were considered essential to the German war effort.
The extremely dangerous nature of Bomber Command’s work meant that the casualty rate for the group was extremely high, with 44.4 per cent killed. Of the 125,000 aircrew who served in Bomber Command, about 55,573 were killed in action, 8,403 personnel were wounded and 9,838 became prisoners of war.
A commemorative service will also be held in Wellington later this year for veterans who were not able to travel to London.
For more information contact Hazel Dobbie, Communications Manager HQ New Zealand Defence Force, M: +64 21 745 288