RAF Chinook Moves Bomber Command Memorial at Beachy Head
While many saw the Bomber Command Memorial ceremony take place in London, on 26th June a Chinook from RAF Odiham was used to move another memorial into place, at Beachy Head near Eastbourne. This memorial also honoured the 55,573 of Bomber Command killed during the Second World War, and was the brainchild of Joe Williams, a 90 year old Bomber Command veteran.
Two stones, weighing seven and a half tonnes, and a crane were carried by underslung load to the site on top of the cliffs. The spot was chosen as for many the white cliffs were their last sight of England as they flew across the English Channel on their missions.
The task presented an excellent training opportunity for the 18(B) Sqn Chinook crew, Flt Lt Jay Berry, Sqn Ldr Glenn Cole and Flt Sgts Sam Norris and Dale Folkard. The task also provided training for the Joint Helicopter Support Squadron (JHSS), who provide specialist underslung load support and landing site management.
18 (Bomber) Sqn, which was part of Bomber Command during WWII, and the JHSS were honoured to play a part in establishing the Bomber Command Memorial. 18(B) Sqn formed initially as a training unit at Northolt on 11th May 1915. During the Great War, it concentrated on bombing, and after the Armistice moved to Germany as part of the Army of Occupation before disbanding. It reformed in October 1931 at Upper Heyford, with Hart and then Hind Biplanes. As part of the Air Component of the British Expeditionary Force and equipped with Blenheims, 18 Sqn suffered heavy losses in their attempts to stem the German advance through Europe, before being withdrawn to the UK in May 1940. It was then assigned to anti-shipping duties, but during one raid over France in August 1941, one aircraft dropped a box over St Omer airfield containing an artificial leg. It was a spare for Wg Cdr Douglas Bader! The Sqn then moved to North Africa with Blenheim and took up day bombing duties. It supported the allied advance through Italy before moving to Greece in September 1945.
The Sqn reformed in August 1981 as the first RAF Chinook squadron. Over the last thirty years 18 Sqn has been on constant operational duty around the world.
Flt Lt Berry said: “The respect that we as serving members of the RAF have for the achievements and sacrifice of Bomber Command crews during World War II is boundless. To be able to support the emplacement of a Tribute at Beachy Head was not only a privilege but also an invaluable training opportunity. To support Joe William’s in his endeavour was a humbling experience for us and we hope to have played our part in ensuring that the members of Bomber Command are never forgotten.”
Over the following days, the finishing touches were made to the memorial before it was unveiled by Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Peter Field on 8th July.