Remembering the few, reminding the many

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I recently attended the annual sunset service commemorating the Battle of Britain at the South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum.

More than 100 air cadets paraded and the salute was taken by retired Air Vice Marshal Alan Johnson.

Both the march past and the religious service were impressive, held in the shadow of old military aircraft and memorabilia and this year marking the 75th anniversary of this pivotal battle.

This, the greatest air battle in history, was fought in the skies over southern England in the summer and autumn of 1940 between the Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe.

2,954 young men of RAF Fighter Command flew in their Hurricanes, Spitfires, Defiants and Blenheims against a numerically superior German enemy. Of those Allied participants, 544 were killed in the battle and a further 750 did not live to see the end of the war. Many more were grievously injured, some so badly burned that they were disfigured for life.

Had the Battle of Britain been lost, Nazi Germany would have invaded England and our freedoms would have been extinguished.

What happened at Auschwitz and the other death camps on the continent would have happened here.

It is therefore vital that the exploits of these brave young men are commemorated and their achievements recognised by this and future generations.

As readers may know, an appeal is under way to erect a Battle of Britain monument at the Air Museum in Doncaster.

This site was formerly Doncaster Airport where an RAF Squadron was operational and, just before World War Two, the airfield was home to Battle of Britain Squadron 616.

As well as being a place for commemoration and remembrance, this new monument will address the crucial need for education. Many schoolchildren have no knowledge of the Battle of Britain.

A Daily Telegraph poll of 1,000 children showed only five per cent knew it was an air conflict between Britain and Germany in the Second World War - yet generations of lives have been shaped by this decisive victory.

The monument will record the names of all the Allied combatants and feature illustrated descriptions of the Battle and stained glass windows designed by local schoolchildren.

A model of the proposed monument is on display at the Air Museum.

Anyone who would like to support the project can send donations to the Northern Battle of Britain Monument Appeal at South Yorkshire Air Museum, Airborne Road, Dakota Way, Doncaster, DN4 7FB.