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The Air Forces Memorial Runnymede

THE WAR IN THE AIR 4 5

THE WAR IN THE AIR 4 5 THE MEMORIAL The Air Forces Memorial, Runnymede, is one of the largest and most celebrated memorials built to commemorate those who died in the Second World War. The RAF saw some of the earliest action in the Second World War, and more than 116,000 men and women of the Commonwealth Air Forces died during the war. The day after war was declared raids took place in which seven aircraft were lost and 25 airmen were killed, the first casualties in what would become a worldwide struggle to gain mastery in the air upon which victory depended. 1 The Air Forces Memorial, Runnymede, commemorates more than 20,000 Commonwealth airmen and women. They were lost in the Second World War during operations from bases in the United Kingdom and Northern and Western Europe and have no known grave. The memorial was unveiled on 17 October 1953 by Queen Elizabeth II. 24,000 people attended the ceremony. Visitors enter through the ornate doors beneath the RAF motto ‘Per Ardua Ad Astra’ – ‘Through Adversity to the Stars.’ The names of the missing are arranged by year of death on stone panels around a cloistered courtyard. The Stone of Remembrance stands at the heart of the memorial. 2 6 The tower, reminiscent of a war-time RAF control tower, offers views across the nearby landscape including the Runnymede meadow where Magna Carta was sealed in 1215, the river Thames, Windsor Castle and Heathrow Airport. 1 2 3 Astral Crown: the heraldic symbol of the air forces Stone panels: list the names of the missing Commonwealth Coats of Arms: painted on the cloister ceilings 4 Great North Window: inscribed with the words from the Airman’s Psalm 5 Entrance Doors: feature zinc lions and the RAF motto 6 ‘Per Ardua Ad Astra’ (‘Through Adversity to the Stars’) Tower: adorned with three stone figures Queen Elizabeth II unveils the Air Forces Memorial, Runnymede, in October 1953. 3 7 7 representing Justice, Victory and Courage Scallop Shells: a symbol of pilgrimage

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