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Ex-navigator attends unveiling of RAF memorial
A FORMER bomber navigator shed a tear as his dead friends and colleagues were remembered with the new memorial in London yesterday.
Douglas Tew, 88, from Carterton, flew 17 bombing missions during the Second World War including raids over Berlin, Cologne and Hamburg.
He visited London yesterday to see the Queen unveil a new £7m memorial to Bomber Command in Green Park.
It has taken years of delicate discussions to win German blessing for the memorial to be built and unveiled because of the scale of destruction wreaked on some cities.
As a Lancaster bomber flew over the ceremony, Mr Tew shed a tear for the 55,573 RAF crew who lost their lives during the conflict.
He said: “It took me back to the wartime and the crew that I had with me, who were an absolutely excellent crew.
“All the old faces came back.”
More than 5,000 surviving airmen joined the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall for the unveiling.
RAF veterans from Canada, New Zealand and Australia also attended.
The Queen pulled a rope to remove a blue covering and reveal a 9ft sculpture depicting a seven-man bomber crew returning from a mission.
As the Lancaster Bomber flew over, it dropped thousands of poppies on to Green Park. At the end of the ceremony the Last Post was sounded and a minute’s silence was held to remember the aircrews.
Mr Tew said: “The memorial is very important. It brings back to people memories of those that lost their lives and the people who went through such a traumatic experience.
“It also brings back that we do not want any more wars.”
After the ceremony Mr Tew met Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, who asked him about his retirement. He said: “It was nice meeting them. They are very nice people.”
Mr Tew was born in Sheffield and joined the RAF in 1944 at the age of 18. He trained to become a navigator in Canada and joined 101 Squadron. Following the war, he flew humanitarian food drops in Holland and later reconnaissance missions along the Russian border. He retired in 1982 after 36 years in the RAF.
Air Chief Marshall Sir Stephen Dalton, Chief of the Air Staff, said: “This country and the Commonwealth have shown the veterans that their service and courage have been recognised.”
The Bomber Command Memorial’s roof is inspired by a Vickers Wellington aircraft and includes sections of aluminium recovered from a Handley Page Halifax III. The bomber was shot down over Belgium on May 12, 1944, killing eight.
An inscription on the memorial commemorates all those that lost their lives in the bombings of 1939-45, including Germans who died in the bombing missions.
Former Bee Gees singer and Thame resident Robin Gibb, who died in May, helped raise funds for it. Speaking when it was approved, Mr Gibb said: “This is the last truly great memorial of the two World Wars that needs to be built.”