Prime Minister David Cameron has met heroes of the Battle of Britain in central London at the start of a week of commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the RAF’s historic struggle with Germany’s Luftwaffe.
He met four of the people wartime PM Sir Winston Churchill called “the few”: Spitfire pilots Geoffrey Wellum, 89, from Cornwall, and William Walker, 97, from west London; Hurricane pilot Bob Foster, 90, from St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex; and Blenheim gunner Owen Burns, 94, from west London.
The event was Mr Cameron’s first public engagement since the death of his father Ian last week.
He told the veterans and their wives how his father, who was born with stunted legs, had always been proud of meeting flying ace Douglas Bader, who lost his legs in an air accident and encouraged him to make the most of his life despite his disability.
Mr Cameron welcomed a full-size replica of a Spitfire fighter plane of the kind which took part in the Battle, which will be positioned outside the Ministry of Defence building on Whitehall throughout the week.
They also met current Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton and Defence Secretary Liam Fox.
Flight Lieutenant Walker recalled how he flew Spitfires as a pilot officer in the RAF from May until August 1940, when he was shot by a Luftwaffe Messerschmitt 109 and had to bail out into the Channel, where he was rescued by a fishing boat.
“It is a very proud day,” said Flt Lt Walker. “It is nice that people remember us. It’s very satisfying.
“People must always remember what happened. You and I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for those men.”
About 2,900 RAF aircrew took part in the Battle of Britain, which raged in the skies of the south of England from July 10 and October 31 1940, and almost 550 were killed. The Battle marked a decisive turning point in the war, halting Adolf Hitler’s plans for an invasion of Britain.Tags: Adolf Hitler, Bader, Battle of Britain, Bob Foster, David Cameron, Douglas Bader, Geoffrey Wellum, Liam Fox, Owen Burns, Spitfire, Stephen Dalton, William Walker, Winston Churchill