October 22, 2020

Battle of Britain: Westminster Abbey service to mark 80th anniversary

Westminster Abbey Image copyright AFP

Westminster Abbey is to hold a memorial service later to mark 80 years since the Battle of Britain, in the venue’s first major event since lockdown.

The battle, fought entirely in the air, was a dramatic turning point in the Second World War.

The abbey has held a service of thanksgiving on Battle of Britain Sunday every year since 1944.

The year’s event will see attendance significantly reduced and social-distancing measures in place.

Around 100 guests have been invited for the service, which usually attracts around 2,000 people.

A statement from the organisers said the service at 11:00 BST on Sunday would be “reduced in stature but not in spirit”.

“The abbey is a very large church, it usually holds 2,200, so the guests will be easily spaced out to conform with social distancing,” it said.

The last major service to take place at the venue was the Commonwealth Day service held on 9 March, two weeks before the UK went into lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The service, which will remember the 1,497 pilots and aircrew who died, will be led by the Dean of Westminster Abbey, Dr David Hoyle, and will be followed by a flypast.

Image copyright MOD
Image caption A Texan T1 being flown to mark the 80th anniversary

Although the battle took place between July and October in 1940, 15 September is Battle of Britain Day – the date of a decisive victory by the RAF.

The RAF defended the skies over southern England, as Hitler’s Luftwaffe flew daily attacks ahead of a planned invasion.

Some 1,120 Luftwaffe aircraft were sent to attack London, but were repelled by 630 RAF fighters – and two days later Hitler postponed his plans to invade Britain.

Commemorations have been limited this year due to coronavirus restrictions, but a variety of tributes took place across the UK, including special exhibitions from the Imperial War Museum.