Battle of Britain remembered in historic flypast

The Royal family watch an RAF flypast to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, from the balcony of Buckingham Palace in London
The Royal family watch an RAF flypast to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, from the balcony of Buckingham Palace in London

The Queen has led the nation in marking the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain – watching a flypast of historic aircraft over the capital.

Spitfires and Hurricanes – fighters synonymous with the Second World War aerial conflict – flew over Buckingham Palace as the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh and Duke of Cambridge looked on.

The planes from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight were joined by their modern counterparts, Typhoon jets, which produced a deafening roar.

Among the guests invited to witness the fly past were six RAF Battle of Britain pilots – famously dubbed the “few” by wartime prime minister Winston Churchill.

Leading the flypast in a Spitfire was Squadron Leader Duncan Mason, officer commanding the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight based at RAF Coningsby, who said: “For us, taking part today was an incredible honour.

“Events like these events don’t happen, but today gave us – the RAF and the nation – the opportunity to commemorate and recognise those extraordinary feats 75 years ago.

“Knowing that six Battle of Britain veteran pilots were watching us, flying the very same aircraft they won the battle in, was humbling and I hope we did them proud.”

The 75th anniversary is likely to be the last major anniversary at which the elderly airmen will be fit to take part.

July 10 is a significant date as it is widely acknowledged to be the start of the battle, with a series of Luftwaffe attacks on shipping convoys off the south-east coast of England on that day in 1940.

The RAF shot down 14 enemy aircraft and severely damaged 23 more that day, according to the Air Ministry, with 641 aircraft completing 200 patrols.

The aerial conflict ranks alongside the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo as one of the most significant in British history. It was the first major battle in history fought entirely in the air and was the first significant strategic defeat for the Nazis during the Second World War.

To watch the flypast the Queen and senior royals stood on the same balcony where George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother stood to greet the ecstatic crowds on Victory in Europe Day, May 8, 1945.

Also joining them were the Duke of York, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Duke of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent, Prince Michael of Kent and Princess Alexandra.