RAF Wittering’s new station commander and new station chaplain joined the people of Stamford for the commemorative Battle of Britain service and parade on Sunday.
Citizens of Stamford both old and young turned out in healthy numbers with RAF Wittering personnel to mark the annual commemoration of the Battle of Britain. Fought in the skies over Britain over 70 years ago, it remains the defining engagement in the Royal Air Force’s near 100-year history.
Sunday’s service and parade was the first for Group Captain Tony Keeling since taking over as Station Commander in June. It was also a first for the Reverend Squadron Leader Stewart Shaw, who came to RAF Wittering as Padre only a matter of weeks ago.
Group Captain Keeling said: “We are here to remember The Few, those who gave their lives during the Battle of Britain. For serving RAF personnel and veterans today resonates very deeply, but it is important to remember that we were not alone in those days. People were on our side, so we’re saying thank you for that too.”
The 13th century surroundings of All Saints’ Church were a fitting venue for the thoughtful service. Led by the Reverend Squadron Leader Shaw and the Very Reverend Mark Warrick, the congregation gave thanks that Great Britain was saved during the Battle of Britain and prayers were offered for continued peace and security.
The Reverend Squadron Leader Shaw said: “The freedoms we enjoy today are a blessing. Our freedoms and our place in the world would be vastly different had we not been able to count on the bravery and sacrifice of those pilots and ground crew from the Battle of Britain.”
Despite fears of rain, the weather held and scores of spectators lined the well-known route along Broad Street to watch the precise military drill and the traditional laying of wreaths.
Mayor of Stamford Tony Story, Stamford town councillors and council officials from Lincolnshire and Peterborough joined townsfolk at the memorial outside the historic Browne’s Hospital on Broad Street. Once there, the familiar music performed by Stamford’s brass band accompanied flawless marching from RAF Wittering’s detachment.
Coun Story said: “I am honoured to represent the citizens of Stamford today. Back in 1940 the people of Stamford would have seen aircraft leaving RAF Wittering, knowing the pilots were on the way to engage the enemy. That experience gets passed on from generation to generation, so it’s no surprise to me that Stamford is still very proud of its association with the Royal Air Force.”
Group Captain Keeling concluded: “It is a matter of record that RAF Wittering is well supported by its nearby towns and villages, the evidence is here for all to see. I am sure that the pilots of 1940 would have been at least as conscious of that support. We are no less grateful for it today.”