Highlighting the bravery of the Few

One of the best-loved memorials in Kent is now just as evocative after dark, thanks to support from a generous donor.

The National Memorial to the Few, the men of the Royal Air Force who fought and won the Battle of Britain in 1940, is now lit by floodlights at dusk.

The result is an atmospheric tribute to the fewer than 3,000 men who took to the skies to see off the Luftwaffe and put a stop to Hitler’s invasion plans. The lights switch on marks the end of the 80th anniversary of the Battle, which took place between 10 July and 31 October.

Businessman Alastair Kerr not only funded the floodlights around the statue of the seated airman but also paid for the building of the wall and contributed to the cost of installing the new gates at the main entrance and for the lighting that illuminates that feature after dark.

The new entrance gates, which formerly stood at RAF Biggin Hill, are named in honour of Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon, former Chief of the Air Staff, President of the Trust from 1999 to October 2016 and now a Life Vice President. Sir Michael also contributed to the cost of the new gates

Alastair’s donation was made in memory of three members of his family who served in the Royal Air Force in World War 2. They were Wing Commander M E Kerr, Squadron Leader J M Kerr and Flying Officer R Gibson.

Pointing out that the lighting of both the gates and the Memorial gave the two features “a second life”, Alastair said he had made the donation “out of gratitude for the life I have and the freedoms I am so lucky to enjoy.

“Bearing this in mind, together with the fact that both sides of my family saw fine men and women serving in both world wars, I felt I should show my respect and appreciation of them, the combatants, and the previous generations for their bravery and determination.

“Hopefully what I have done is to help the Trust keep this pivotal period in Britain and Western Europe’s history very much alive, not only for the present but for all the generations to come.”

The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust has had a challenging year as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, but was heartened by the support of the many people who responded to the charity’s fund-raising efforts.

While the car park and Wing building – home to The Scramble Experience – are now once again closed to visitors, the site is always open to those on foot, who can now also enjoy the floodlit Memorial after dark.

“The clifftop home of the Memorial is always an atmospheric place to visit, and we felt that floodlighting the central airman sculpture would add another dimension to this much-loved tribute to the Few,” commented Trust Chairman Richard Hunting CBE. “We are incredibly grateful to Alastair for generously funding this superb addition to the site.”

Visitors who use the pedestrian gate to access the site are asked to consider the Trust’s neighbours when parking and to observe social distancing and keep dogs on leads.