December 8 2013 Latest news:
Saturday, September 7, 2013
A Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will fly along Cromer’s seafront at 3.30pm on Monday, marking the most poignant moment of a unique ceremony to honour “The Few”.
The resort is set to welcome thousands for the official Norfolk County Council event, the first held in the community rather than at County Hall.
It will also include a 3pm military parade along the promenade, a guard of honour, and the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment on the pier forecourt.
Serving men and women, veterans, invited guests and members of the public will remember the heroism of those aircrew who repeatedly took to the skies during the pivotal summer and autumn of 1940 and fought the German Luftwaffe.
Their success, against the odds, caused Hitler to abandon his plan to invade Britain.
Among those brave men was Hurricane and Spitfire pilot George Barclay, from Cromer, who earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his contribution.
He will be remembered during an official post-ceremony service, for invited guests, in Cromer Parish Church, where his father, the Rev Gilbert Barclay, was once vicar and where there are two memorials to George.
Wounded over England and shot down over France, George escaped by parachute, survived crash landing in enemy territory and, with the help of many French people, made his way safely home.
But his luck ran out in the summer of 1942 when he was shot down and killed, aged 22, by German fighters over the desert of North Africa, near El Alamein. Mr Barclay and his wife also lost another son, Charles, in the war.
County council chairman Hilary Cox, whose home town is Cromer, is especially delighted that the switch of venue from County Hall will mean ordinary members of the public can watch and remember.
“I have been really touched by how many people have come up to me and said: ‘What a wonderful thing for Cromer’. I think there is a strong feeling of commitment to, and acknowledgment of, our RAF history in this area,” she said.
“The ceremony acknowledges the huge part this area of the country played during the Battle of Britain. We had a lot of RAF and USAF bases round here, and there was a lot of hard work and dedication by the people serving on them, and by the farming community and landgirls.”
Mrs Cox said she expected people to gather early to ensure the best views which she suggested would be along the slopes from the Hotel de Paris to the pier forecourt.
■ The Norwich branch of the Royal Air Forces’ Association (RAFA) and the City of Norwich Aviation Museum are sponsoring a visit tomorrow, Sunday September 8, at 3.30pm by the RAF presentation team at the museum in Horsham St Faiths, celebrating RAFA’s 70th anniversary. The team’s talk will be preceded by an historical presentation about the former RAF Horsham St Faiths.
■ On Monday there will be a Battle of Britain week opening ceremony in Norwich. The public is invited to the front of City Hall where Lord Mayor of Norwich Keith Driver will formally open the occasion. From 11.30am the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment will play in front of the St Peter’s Street war memorial.
The event will include personnel from RAF Marham exercising their Freedom of the City, parading past City Hall with bayonets fixed. There will be a noon flypast by an aircraft from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
In the event of severe weather, the parade will be cancelled and the service held in St Peter Mancroft Church.
To mark the end of Battle of Britain week, a service will be held in Norwich Cathedral on Sunday, September 15 at 11am and at 12.10pm a memorial flight aircraft will again make a flypast.
Although it was not permitted, Cromer pilot George Barclay kept a day-by-day diary about his experiences during the Battle of Britain which is now an extremely rare primary source for historians. George’s story is told in Battle of Britain Pilot, published by Haynes at £25.