RAF: Remembering the Fallen

Formed in March 1943, 617 Squadron was created for a specific purpose – to execute arguably the most daring and innovative air raid of World War II, over the dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley.

Now, as then, the RAF continues to deliver precision air power in defence of the UK and her Allies. Today’s 617 Sqn have deployed as a Tornado Sqn for the last time to Afghanistan where they will provide vital close air support, reconnaissance and intelligence gathering in support of allied ground forces.

Last surviving pilot, New Zealand Air Force Officer Les MunroIn May this year, the RAF commemorated the 70th anniversary of the ‘Dambusters’ raid with a Sunset Ceremony attended by the last surviving pilot, New Zealand Air Force Officer Les Munro. Here Les Munro shares his memories and thoughts as he prepares to mark Remembrance 2013.

“While Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom falls on the 11th November it is not given the same significance in New Zealand where Anzac Day on 25th April is recognized as our principle day of honoring our fallen. In both countries we gather to acknowledge and honour the sacrifice they made in order that we who survived could live in freedom, free from oppression, free to live, work, and worship as we please. In New Zealand over recent years it has been noticeable that attendances at the Civic Parades particularly by the younger generation have been increasing.”

“Armistice Day; November 11th as it is known in New Zealand is marked by wreath laying ceremonies at the National War Memorial in Wellington and at many local War Memorials throughout the country where the two minutes silence is observed.”

“To me that observance of two minutes silence is a period of reflection and remembering the lives lost in general terms without visualizing particular individuals, although on occasions I do think of those lost on the Dams Operation.”

“In remembering those that lost their lives in the fight for freedom I am reminded of the last two lines of a poem written metaphorically speaking by the spirit of a serviceman killed in action and I quote,

“ Ye who live on mid English pastures green

Remember us and think what might have been.”

“Because I didn’t travel to London for the Bomber Command Memorial dedication and unveiling, it was important to me to view the Memorial in person which I did in company of members of my family on 20th and 21st May . I was really impressed and believe that the Memorial appropriately honoured the 55,573 airmen who lost their lives on Bomber Command during the War. A great Memorial but in many ways a tragedy that so many that survived the war did not live to see that day.”

Queen Elizabeth II unveils the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park, London, watched by the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales

“I have always looked back on the period I served with and under the command of Leonard Cheshire while on 617 Squadron as the most significant of my operational career and a period with which I have been proud to have been involved. Insofar as individual operations are concerned I have always felt a certain amount of pride of leading the Squadrons Lancaster’s in formation on their first daylight operation of the war over Le Havre on the 14th June 1944.”

“On the occasions when I have learnt that 617 Squadron were serving originally in Iraq and more recently Afghanistan I have commented with some satisfaction: “That’s my old Squadron”. I support its involvement in Afghanistan and wish it well during its current deployment.”

Tomorrow, In support of London Poppy Day 2013, RAF personnel will be in London at Covent Garden and Kings Cross helping raise more than £1m for the Royal British Legion.

Bomber Command Memorial

Editor: Rebecca Jepps


Queen Elizabeth II unveils the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park, London, watched by the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales. John Stillwell

RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2013