Battle of Britain: 80th anniversary to be marked with events across UK

Ben Quinn
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: IWM/PA</span>
Photograph: IWM/PA

The 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain will be commemorated with tributes and initiatives including the opening of a special new immersive experience at one of the nerve centres of the campaign.

Newly transformed and previously unseen historic second world war rooms at the Imperial War Museum’s Duxford site open their doors on Tuesday on the anniversary of the day when the battle reached its climax.

Visitors to The Ops Block: Battle of Britain will be able to hear accounts of those who worked at the Cambridgeshire airfield and immerse themselves in what the museum described as a multi-sensory recreation of the tension felt on the ground on 15 September 1940. However, the pandemic has limited the scope of commemorations, with the cancellation of the annual Duxford air show.

Though the battle took place between July and October 1940, September 15 saw the British Royal Air Forcegain a decisive victory over the Luftwaffe in what was Germany’s largest daylight attack.

Some 1,120 Luftwaffe aircraft were sent to attack London but were repelled by just 630 RAF fighters and two days later Hitler postponed his plans to invade Britain.

In London, alternating union and RAF Ensign flags will fly on The Mall, according to the Ministry of Defence.

An annual Westminster Abbey Battle of Britain service is also still due to take place on 20 September, while other initiatives include the release of a special episode of On the Record at The National Archives podcast as part of a collaboration between the National Archives, the RAF and the RAF Museum.

The episode focuses on lesser-known figures from the battle, including two pilots who enlisted from overseas, to highlight the wider efforts of those who contributed to the military campaign.

A special radar tribute highlighting the achievements of women and other “unsung heroes” will form the centre point of celebrations run by the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. A lightshow will take place at RAF Bawdsey, a former radar station in Suffolk, and RAF Buchan in Aberdeenshire.

It will feature archive footage, photography to “bring to life” the stories of those who served on the ground during the Battle of Britain.

“Bringing attention to those men and women, and particularly women, who served during the Battle of Britain is important for us this year,” said Chris Elliot, controller of the fund.

“The women who served at the RAF airfields were doing it under fire, those airfields were being bombed by the Luftwaffe on a daily basis sometimes.

“So they’re not the heroes that we potentially think about, but these are the people we should be recognising as well, especially on this significant anniversary.”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has meanwhile listed four new heritage sites that will have special protections due to their historical significance. They include a colourful air raid shelter in Surrey and a disguised bunker in Northumberland.