The Air Forces Memorial
From This England and Best of British magazines
By Roger Smith

The Air Forces Memorial was built during the early Nineteen-fifties and was opened by HM The Queen on 17th October 1953. It was built as a memorial to RAF, Commonwealth and other aircrew who had fought and  died during the Second World War over the UK and Northern Europe who had "no known grave", ie, their  bodies were never found.

The memorial contains the names of over twenty thousand airmen and women who came to serve in the cause to keep the World free. They came from every part of the Empire and Commonwealth, the USA and various other Countries. One of my schoolteachers at the time asked us to  imagine the whole population of the Urban District of Egham, as it was then, being dead and their names  carved on the stone of the memorial. The numbers were about the same but I couldn't quite imagine it even then, let alone now.

As a young boy living in Egham in the early Fifties I remember the memorial being built and Her Majesty opening it. I was struck then by its awe inspiring beauty and its wonderful position overlooking the Thames and Runnymede, where King John had sealed the Magna Carta some seven hundred years before. It has got to be among the most wonderful, if that is the word, of the war memorials I have seen, even ranking alongside Tynecot where my Grandfather has his name inscribed. Its beauty, simplicity, quiteness and serenity strike me with awe whenever  I go there. For anyone who has never seen it I can only say it is well worth the visit.

I defy anyone not to have a lump in their throat after walking round the cloisters, reading the names, climbing  the Tower and just gazing  at the wonderful  scenes from the top of the building.  I know that I don't, even after the fifty odd years since I have been going  there. To have served in the Second World War you would by now be at least in your eighties. A lot of those named came from the furthest parts of the World. This means that their relations and friends may now have no chance of ever seeing this memorial, if they haven't already done so. One of the most poignant things when I wander round is to see the small posies, photos, lines of verse, cards, etc, remembering the  people who, whether they wanted to or not, gave their lives for our freedom.

Still living within walking distance of Coopers Hill and the Memorial, I would be more than pleased to place a tribute to those fallen on behalf of friends, relatives, associations, etc. My little box Brownie might even be able to take a photograph!

Please contact me at r.smith193@btinternet.com,  - or 6 St Lukes Road , Old Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 2QQ, England, or for details of the memorial you can "google" or similar under "air forces memorial" where there are some wonderful sites. I will need the name, rank, Air Force served in (ie RAF, RAAF, RSAAF, RNZAF, RCAF, etc,) and year of death to be able to locate the panel where the name is recorded. I would then be able to place a small  posy, message, etc, on the shelf below the name.  This I would be more than willing to do, without any charge, as I think they would appreciate being  remembered