London Battle of Britain Monument – A Closer Look

Spitfire Site

The 25-metre long Battle of Britain London Monument hides many well-researched Battle of Britain stories.

“We shall never forget that if the few had failed in their mighty struggle, the consequences for this nation would have been quite unthinkable”

Prince Charles, on the opening ceremony of London Battle of Britain Memorial, September 2005.

[All photos in this article by Victius, via Flickr / Creative Commons]

The Battle of Britain London Monument is located in Whitehall on the Embankment, near to Downing Street and across from the London Eye. The initial idea for the monument came from the Battle of Britain Historical Society who felt it was important to recognise one of the key moments in World War II.

Unveiled in 2005, the monument occupies a panelled granite structure 25 metres long, covered with bronze reliefs, depicting various aspects of the Battle in the air and on the ground. Other panels commemorate the names and ranks of the airmen who took part in the Battle. Other plaques also incorporate a short description of events and the badges of the Fighter Command squadrons involved in the defence.

The large sculptural part of the monument, entitled The Few, is a work of Paul Day,  British sculptor reknown for high-relief sculptures in terracotta, resin, and bronze. The creative and unusual approach to perspective and attention to light and detail, has become Day’s hallmark.

The sculpture encompasses a wide array of scenes, the most prominent one showing a group of pilots scrambling off the centerpiece of the relief to run to their imaginary aircraft. However, the rest of the artwork hides dozens of other interesting stories.  Thanks to the excellent photography by Victius we can present some of them here.

A section of the sculpture depicts the ever watchful eyes of the 30,000 strong Observer Corps stationed around the south and east coast of England. After the radar, the Observer Corps was the next line of defence and crucial for the relaying of information back to Uxbridge.

The woman worker’s role did not stop at the aircraft and munitions factory gates. They also built and repaired roads and railway tracks, drove buses and ambulances and performed a vital role in keeping the day to day running of the country and the war effort alive. They also flew the newly constructed planes to the airfields.

The sculptor has implied strength by emphasising the physical attributes of some of the women. Note in particular the forearm centre of photo.

In any war, emotions and adrenaline run high. This section joins two aspects of the sculpture and shows a soldier blowing a kiss to a working woman.

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