Here they sat yesterday, R.A.F. 'Battle of Britain' veterans from 1940 and in the middle, the 93 year old, Dame Vera Lynn, 'The Forces Sweetheart' from The Second World War.
They were commemorating, almost to the minute, the 70th anniversary of Prime Minister Winston Churchill's House of Commons speech in which he praised the courage of the 'Battle of Britain' pilots, of whom 498 died in 1940 fending off German air attacks on Britain.
Churchill's famous lines :
What happened :
Things like this in 1940 :
And yesterday i 2010 :
* as 'Big Ben' struck four , a Hurricane and a Spitfire swooped low over the rooftops of Whitehall.
* nine of the surviving veterans sat on gilt chairs , glasses of champagne in their hands, outside the Cabinet war rooms where Churchill had his bunker under the Treasury building.
* they sat a few feet away from a stationary Spitfire.
* actor Robert Hardy declaimed a portion of the speech anew, with no sibilant left unhissed, perhaps even more dramatically than Churchill himself did at the time.
* Lady Soames, Churchill's youngest and last surviving child, recalled hearing the speech as it was made on 20 August 1940 and maybe the last person still alive to have done so. "It is very moving for me to be here today," she said. "Seventy years ago I was in the House of Commons and heard my father … those words ring like a bell and will do so for a very long time, I am sure."
From Pilot Tom Neil :
The voice of Vera Lynn :
Douglas Bader's notebooks :
Hazel Greogory's memories as a German 'bomber plotter' over Kent :
What was it like to fly a spitfire ?