A warm welcome was extended to more than 300 veterans of Bomber Command’s Second World War operations on an historic gathering in North
Kesteven to officially open the international memorial centre dedicated to their heroic mission.
In unseasonably cold and foggy weather, the International Bomber Command Centre was opened at the top of Canwick Hill on Thursday ,April 12, with the simultaneous cutting of an enormous ribbon by the veterans, all aged between 93 and 100.
They were the most honoured of the 3,500 guests assembled to pay tribute to not only the 57,681 men and women of the air crew, ground crew and support services who perished serving on Bomber Command and whose names are immortalised on steel walls surrounding the memorial spire, but also those who brought the project to its final realisation.
Also present were North Kesteven District Council Leader Coun Richard Wright, chairman Coun Sally Tarry whose great uncle was among the losses, and Chief Executive Ian Fytche.
There was musical entertainment and Ambassador to the RAF Air Cadets, Honorary Group Captain Vorderman was among the presenters.
At 31.09m tall, the spire is the height of a Lancaster Bomber’s wingspan, its 5m base is the width of the wing and the tallest war memorial in the UK.
The entire project – from the memorial, the walls, the exhibitions within the centre, the digital archive and the education programme – is founded on the principles of recognition, remembrance and reconciliation and provides the only place in the world where every loss is memorialised.
North Kesteven District Council has been a strong supporter from its very inception as an idea of the then Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire Tony Worth. The council’s ‘continued support’ was singled out by IBCC Chief Executive Nicky Barr in her speech from the stage, alongside that of other funders and most significantly a vast network of volunteers globally.
Coun Wright said: “As a council that proudly respects the area’s unique aviation heritage, we have always shared the guiding principles of the project, to honour the veterans, celebrate their contributions, capture their memories and achieve the recognition denied of them over the decades.
“We are pleased to have played but a small part in the realisation of this long-held aspiration and extend a warm welcome to all those who will visit the centre and discover the stories over the decades to come, from where I hope they are inspired to discover more of the District’s delights.
“As a veteran of the RAF myself, it was humbling to be in the presence of so many heroes who valiantly flew so many perilous missions and changed the course of the Second World War and poignant to reflect on the pressing need to hear, capture and learn from their experiences.”