Hundreds of people lined Beachy Head yesterday (April 28) to witness the long-awaited unveiling of a monument to commemorate wartime heroes.

The crowds gathered for a poignant service in the presence of former members of the Royal Air Force (RAF) who served during the Second World War.

The memorial marks the sacrifices made by the 55,573 men of Bomber Command and commemorates their final mission on April 26, 1945 to destroy Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.

Beachy Head was many of the airmen’s last sight of England before entering enemy territory.

Following a reading by Reverend Canon Martin Onions and The Last Post performed by Alan Cooper, a flypast of a dozen light aircrafts circled the memorial to complete the service.

The monument is something 90-year-old former prisoner of war Joe Williams has been battling for since 2008 and he was thrilled it was finally being officially unveiled.

He said: “We were unable to do the unveiling on Remembrance Sunday so our next option was to do it to commemorate the day we flew over to destroy Hitler’s nest.

“It’s been a long time coming. After the war I used to farm down this way and I used to bring my wife down here and I’d tell her: “There should be a memorial here for all our boys” and some nearly 70 years later I have finally achieved it.”

It’s estimated that around 110,000 aircrew were part of Bomber Command, of which 55,573 were killed.

'Real heroes'

Richard Miles from East Dean, who attended the service, said: “It’s excellent. My father was part of Bomber Command and was shot down in August 1943.

“He was one of only three survivors on his aircraft and the pilots essentially gave up their lives to try and save the others on board by keeping the plane steady enough for them to jump out – real heroes.

“But sadly he died in 2003 so he never really experienced the recognition here in Beachy Head.

“It’s a very fitting tribute and it was a touching service.”

Another former RAF serviceman John Johnstone from Eastbourne said of the monument: “The most striking thing for me is the line “for many, Beachy Head would have been their last sight of England”, so it’s great to see a lot of people here.

“I think it’s a measure of the respect Bomber Command have and this [memorial] is long overdue.”

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