This year due to the disruption caused worldwide via Covid-19, the annual Battle of Britain Rededication Service at Westminster Abbey was reduced from a congregation of about 2,000 involving royalty, dignitaries from around the world, as well as the general public, to just something like 100.

I and my wife had attended for 19 years, 2020 would have been the 80th anniversary. Some 16 years ago, in 2004, I was very privileged to receive an invitation to meet the surviving members of the Battle of Britain “The Few” in the RAF Chapel at Westminster Abbey. My wife and I duly arrived, and were greeted by their then leader Air Commodore Pete Brothers.

We placed ourselves at the back, not wishing to intrude into their distinguished group. But Air Commodore Pete Brothers called me forward so that together we laid our respective tributes alongside the tomb of Air Chief Marshall Lord Hugh Dowding, the victor of the battle. It was a great honour.

This year on September 15, I sat in my garden recalling the momentous events I witnessed as a nine-year-old, 80 years ago, so clearly etched in my mind as if yesterday. The day was sunny, scattered cloud that late afternoon not far from North Weald. Above me in the blue sky, contrails, here and there dark plumes from the sky, where aircraft had plummeted earthwards.

About a mile away at around 3,000 feet, a German twin aircraft fleeing home with its starboard engine trailing smoke, no doubt after a mauling from our Hurricanes and Spitfires. The closing stages of that day could be described as Wagnerian.

As I sat in my garden remembering that far-off day I recalled meeting personally prominent members of “the Few” in Westminster Abbey, as well as thinking about all those other young men, barely out of their teens, who gave their all so that we might survive.

They stood tall amongst men, I doubt in my view if we shall see their like again.

Alex Jennings

Fernlea Road, Burnham