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Bomber Command hero says memorial is 'long overdue'
A WAR hero from Flackwell Heath says a memorial to the thousands of airmen led from RAF High Wycombe who lost their lives during the Second World War is 'long overdue'.
It was unveiled for the first time by the Queen seventy years after renowned war hero Sir Arthur Harris took up the post of commander-in-chief at Bomber Command.
RAF veteran Charlie Darby, who flew 30 missions with Bomber Command, was one of many people invited along to the official unveiling in London's Green Park on Thursday June 28.
The 88-year-old said it was "a privilege" to attend the event.
Mr Darby said: "It's a long time overdue but it's there.
"We saw it on the big screen as we were sitting back a long way in Green Park. We're going up at a later date."
Mr Darby served as a tail gunner with the Bomber Command unit and had a couple of near misses while on missions, the closest being when his crew managed to shake off a German fighter plane over the Ruhr valley.
From 1940 Bomber Command had its headquarters at RAF High Wycombe in Naphill and raids on the enemy were co-ordinated from there.
A total of 55,573 members of Bomber Command were killed in action during air raids over Germany during the war and the statue is dedicated to their memory.
Reflecting on his time in Bomber Command, Mr Darby said: "I served in an Australian Squadron because my pilot was Australian.
"I joined in 1943 at the age of 19. I flew 30 operations, 15 in daylight and 15 at night. From there you were grounded for six months and given a rest from operations. Mine was in January 1945 - the end was getting near and there was no way I was going back up."
Mark Williams, branch secretary of the High Wycombe Royal British Legion, watched the ceremony on TV.
He said: "It was a lovely ceremony, but then everything involving the Queen is.
"More than 55,000 out of 110,000 of those that served never came back and they should have been honoured like this many years ago. It's long overdue."
The sculpture, which is made of bronze, depicts seven members of a Bomber Command air crew and was designed by architect Liam O’Connor and created by Philip Jackson.
Mr Williams said: "I'm not a great fan of art but this particular sculpture is seriously impressive. I like it a lot."