Acknowledging the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain campaign, Royal Australian Air Force personnel from No. 1 Remote Sensor Unit based at RAAF Base Edinburgh joined with the RAAF Association South Australia members and veterans to hold a commemorative service to mark the milestone anniversary on September 12.
Held at the Air Force Memorial, Torrens Parade Ground, Adelaide, the socially distanced event was attended by the Governor of South Australia as well as distinguished guests including the families of two South Australian airmen who flew in the conflict: Richard Bungey, son of Squadron Leader Robert Bungey, DFC, and relatives of Sergeant Des Fopp, AFC. Other attending VIPs included state and federal Members of Parliament.
The commemorative service provided a time for remembrance and reflection.
Senior Australian Defence Force Officer RAAF Base Edinburgh, Air Commodore Brendan Rogers, said it was an immense honour and a privilege for members to participate in the event.
"The Battle of Britain commemorative service in 2020 is an opportunity to honour the British and Australian airmen and airwomen who, 80 years ago, played an important role in the success of the air campaign – both in its execution and its outcome," Air Commodore Rogers said.
"We are also privileged to have family members of two of those South Australian airmen here with us today.
"Their service and sacrifice, together with the efforts of all of the men and women who served in that conflict, ultimately changed the course of history."
In the summer and autumn of 1940, the Royal Air Force fought a prolonged battle in the defence of Britain against an experienced and numerically superior German Luftwaffe.
This air campaign, which became known as the Battle of Britain, officially lasted from July 10 to October 31, 1940.
At least 30 Australians flew in the Battle of Britain conflict, with 22 flying in Fighter Command. The remaining aircrew flew with RAF Bomber Command and Coastal Command. Out of the 30 Australians, eight were South Australian.
At its core, it was through individual and collective acts of courage, skill, sacrifices and spirit that a decisive allied British victory was ultimately achieved. It was a victory which forced Hitler to shelve a planned invasion of the British Isles, while proving that air power alone could be used to win a major battle.
It also showcased the gallantry, mateship, morale and sheer determination of ‘the few’ to face the enemy and to inspire the free world to fight on in the face of adversity.
From a tactical perspective the battle demonstrated the critical and increasing role of air power in conflict and the importance of winning control of the air as a precursor to other military operations.
Delivering the keynote speech at the commemorative event, Commanding Officer 1RSU Wing Commander Richard Harrison said the Battle of Britain campaign also provided a focus to operational elements that extended beyond the role of aircrew, but were equally vital for mission success.
"It emphasised the role of new technologies such as radar – a key capability to deliver that air picture and provide situational awareness to aircrew in the battlespace," Wing Commander Harrison said.
"The evolution of radar technologies and surveillance capabilities continue to be vital components that make a significant contribution in today's operational environment in support of the joint force."
The campaign also highlighted the critical support of industry in providing aircraft as well as developing ground crews to service and repair battle damage.
"All of these supporting elements contributed to a great allied victory and laid the foundation for future engagements," he said.
Although mission success was achieved it came at great cost: 1503 members of allied aircrew were killed during the Battle of Britain. Of the 449 RAF Fighter Command aircrew who died, at least 14 were Australian.
Participating in the ceremony, 1RSU member Aircraftwoman Chantelle Bradford said it was important to reflect upon this history as serving members.
"As we commemorate the Battle of Britain, we acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of those who have come before us. It is a reminder of why we serve in the Air Force today, and the continued importance of our surveillance mission," Aircraftwoman Bradford said.
"Joining with my fellow unit members and the veterans today, it is this spirit of camaraderie and mateship that connects the generations and is still relevant today. I could not be more proud to be part of carrying on that legacy."
Reflecting on the campaign, Wing Commander Harrison said those who fought and were lost would be remembered.
"To those who served in the Battle of Britain 80 years ago – who gave and risked all – their names will be forever etched in history as airmen and airwomen who fought in one of the greatest air battles ever fought. Their contribution and sacrifice will never be forgotten," he said.