Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall attend Battle of Britain service

19:09 16 September 2012

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall attend the Battle of Britain Service of Thanksgiving. Picture: Sang Tan/PA Wire

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall attend the Battle of Britain Service of Thanksgiving. Picture: Sang Tan/PA Wire

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall joined Battle of Britain veterans and their families at a service of thanksgiving today.

The Prince of Wales talks to portrait sitter RAF veteran Wing Commander T F Neil by a portrait of Neil by artist James Lloyd (right). Picture: Sang Tan/PA WireThe Prince of Wales talks to portrait sitter RAF veteran Wing Commander T F Neil by a portrait of Neil by artist James Lloyd (right). Picture: Sang Tan/PA Wire

A Spitfire and a Hurricane flew above London’s Westminster Abbey to commemorate the battle, which was one of the turning points of the Second World War.

Some 544 Royal Air Force pilots were killed in the bitter struggle to save the UK from invasion.

Of the events, Winston Churchill famously declared: “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed - by so many - to so few”.

The annual service marked the nation’s gratitude for the pilots and aircrew of the RAF who prevented Germany from gaining air superiority in the summer and autumn of 1940.

The Battle of Britain Roll of Honour was escorted to the Sacrarium by airmen who had fought in the battle, and prayers were said for those currently serving in Afghanistan, the Middle East and the South Atlantic.

Chaplain in Chief Raymond Pentland told the congregation: “If our Olympians and Paralympians, of who we are rightly so proud, held the hope of our nation, then those men, the Few, held the hope of the world.”

He added: “The Few inspired the world then and surely inspire us now.”

The head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, greeted Prince Charles and Camilla as they arrived at the Abbey.

Speaking after the service, he said: “It’s very important from the point of view of passing on the message to the next generation of what these men did in terms of serving their country, their commitment and their courage.

“Today’s young men and women also want to serve their country. This is to make sure they understand why this is like a flame, a torch, that is handed on from one generation to another just like the Olympic flame was passed on this year.

“That is the same concept of passing the spirit and the ethos onto the next generation.”

Prince Charles, Marshal of the RAF, wore full ceremonial uniform, while the Duchess of Cornwall wore a nude Anna Valentine dress and a co-ordinating hat by Philip Treacy.

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major and Defence Secretary Philip Hammond also attended the service.

After the service Charles and Camilla viewed an exhibition of portraits of surviving Battle of Britain veterans.

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