Bomber Command memorial unveiling moving for veteran JackBy Jon Nurse
July 04, 2012
A Lancaster bomber captain has described a moving service after a memorial was unveiled for RAF Bomber Command by the Queen.
Cecil, known as Jack, Hayley piloted bombers on 31 operations over Germany and France during the Second World War.
He joined hundreds of veterans in Green Park on Thursday, June 28, for a service to open a £6 million memorial for 55,573 men who gave their lives in bombing raids during the war.
Mr Hayley, 91, of Milton Gardens, is the sole survivor of his crew.
“It’s a beautiful memorial,” he said. “There must have been four or five hundred veterans there and I don’t suppose there’s ever been a time we have all been together like that.
“It was a very moving occasion.”
The veteran, who has lived in Wokingham since 1955, met the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall at the service where a Lancaster flypast dropped thousands of poppies on close to 6,000 veterans and families of the deceased.
The memorial is a 9ft high bronze sculpture of seven Lancaster bomber airman after a mission.
Mr Hayley feels the memorial is a fitting tribute to Bomber Command and understands why it has taken 70 years for them to be properly recognised.
“We weren’t in very good odour at the end of the war,” he said. “Air Marshall Arthur Harris didn’t receive any recognition for many years.”
Bomber Command’s raids critically damaged Nazi Germany’s industries but also caused a loss of up to 600,000 civilian lives in raids on German cities, including Cologne and Dresden.
Mr Hayley’s great nephew, Richard Boardman, is now a member of RAF No 15 squadron based in Lossiemouth and flying Tornadoes.
The veteran was 18 when war broke out and registered for national service but wasn't called up until 1942. He piloted Lancaster bombers during five to nine hour flights on the continent.
“It was the job you were trained to do and you were well aware of the hazards but you couldn’t dwell on them,” he said.
“It required a lot of concentration so you had to get on with your job.
“They were wonderful aircraft to fly. Amongst the bombers they were supreme and they survived a lot of battering. I had one frightening experience over Düsseldorf when we were caught by searchlights.
“Once that happens they all concentrate on you and you are a sitting duck. I got up as much speed as I could and got out of the area.”