A full-sized sculpture of a crashed German World War Two dive bomber has been unveiled at the Battle of Britain Memorial site to reflect a ‘spirit of reconciliation’ and highlight the international outlook of the charity that maintains the National Memorial to the Few.
The crashed Junkers Ju87 Stuka, made of stainless steel, is sited next to the replica Mk 1 Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft that are major attractions at the memorial’s clifftop home at Capel-le-Ferne, just outside Folkestone.
The sculpture, by Bavarian artist Mr Hex FRSS, is called Down.Two.Earth and has been on display at Burghley House Sculpture Garden. It is due to remain for the summer, during which the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain will be commemorated.
With just two Fighter Command veterans of the 1940 conflict thought to be still alive, the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust is planning to broaden its approach as it develops its role as the international authority on the Battle that changed history.
The Secretary of the Trust, Group Captain Patrick Tootal, whose father Flt Lt Jack Tootal RAFVR was lost while flying Halifax bombers with Bomber Command, explained that reconciliation was not a new concept for the Trust, the custodian of the National Memorial to the Few.
“When the Memorial was unveiled by Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1993, we used a dramatic photograph of an RAF Tornado and a German Tornado from the Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment at Cottesmore flying over the site in formation to promote the opening.
“As well as reconciliation, the image reflected the close personal relationships that had built up since the war between some of the Few and their German counterparts, not least Wing Commander Geoffrey Page, who was the inspiration behind the Memorial and who became close friends with Luftwaffe ace General Adolf Galland.
“In later years the Trust felt that the image might be a little insensitive to some of the surviving Few, but those who are still with us feel that the time is now right once again to broaden the Memorial’s appeal.
“In early 2019, on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Trustees re-examined the charity’s role and decided it should also address and record the role of the Luftwaffe in the Battle in order to provide a comprehensive and authoritative overview of the events of 1940.”
That decision coincided with an approach from the artist to ask if the Trust would be interested in displaying his piece, which has a wingspan of 14m – wider than either the Spitfire or Hurricane.
Mr Hex has a particular interest in the Battle as his father and the German artist Joseph Beuys both served in the Luftwaffe, flying in the same Stuka squadron. He has told the Trust he is “proud and privileged to be part of your Memorial for a time”.
Patrick Tootal added: “As we approach the end of an era with the passing of the Word War Two veterans we must look to the future and remember the human cost of war to all nations in a spirit of reconciliation.”