A new memorial honoring the 55,573 airmen who died while serving in Bomber Command during World War II was formally dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II in Green Park last week. At the centre of a new Portland stone pavilion, designed by architect Liam O’Connor (the architect behind the Commonwealth Memorial Gates near Buckingham Palace), is a nine foot high sculpture – the work of Philip Jackson – depicting seven aircrew from a Lancaster bomber having just returned from an operation (detail of which is pictured). The roof of the pavilion, the design of which was inspired by construction techniques used in the Vickers Wellington bomber, incorporates aluminium which was recovered from a Handley Page Halifax III bomber shot down over Belgium on the night of 12th May, 1944. The eight crew were killed during the incident and three of them were found still at their stations when the aircraft was excavated from a swamp in 1997 (they were subsequently buried with full military honors alongside the other five members of the crew). Hundreds of RAF veterans and Commonwealth airmen turned out to see the £6 million publicly funded memorial officially unveiled. The event was also marked with a flyover by five RAF Tornado bombers followed by the RAF’s last Lancaster Bomber which dropped thousands of poppies over Green Park in a message of remembrance. About 125,000 men served in Bomber Command from 1939-1945. The memorial, created following a five year campaign, commemorates people of all nations who lost their lives in the bombing campaigns of that period. For more on the memorial, see www.bombercommand.com.
PICTURE: Courtesy of Mike Legend at Flickr.
• The annual Museums at Night event returns to London (and Britain) this weekend with hundreds of museums and galleries across the country opening their doors for special after hours events. Among those places in London taking part is the Churchill War Rooms, which is hosting a 1940s evening on Friday night, the London Canal Museum which is hosting”candle-lit tours, atmospheric lighting, and exhibits of art and film in dark places”, and the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology which is hosting a double hill of Hammer films and a “Gothic Egypt” trail. Other institutions taking part include the Sir John Soane Museum, the National Gallery, the Bank of England Museum, and Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham. For more information about what’s on see www.museumsatnight.org.uk
• King William the Conqueror celebrated at the Tower of London this week following the completion of a £2 million, three year project to clean the White Tower. First built shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066, the tower had become blackened by pollution but has now been restored to its original color. For more information on visiting the Tower, see www.hrp.org.uk/toweroflondon/.
• A foundation stone has reportedly been laid for a Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park. The memorial, which is due to be completed for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations in 2012, will be constructed of Portland stone and will feature a nine foot tall statue of a bomber command aircrew. Bomber Command lost more than 55,000 airmen during World War II. The foundation stone was laid by the Duke of Gloucester. Supporters of the monument’s construction have included former Bee Gee Robin Gibb, Sir Michael Beetham, Marshal of the RAF, and The Daily Telegraph newspaper which is running an appeal to help raise funds for the memorial.