History

The struggle for control in the air lasted through the war, costing the lives of more than 116,000 men and women of the Air Forces of the Commonwealth.

 

The memorial commemorates those airmen and women who died in western Europe and have no known grave. They came from all parts of the Commonwealth and served in Bomber, Fighter, Coastal, Transport, Flying Training and Maintenance Commands. Some were from countries in continental Europe which had been overrun but whose airmen continued to fight in the ranks of the Royal Air Force.

The site overlooks the River Thames and the riverside meadow where the Magna Carta was sealed by King John on 15 June 1215. The land on which the memorial stands was donated by Sir Eugen and Lady Effie Millington-Drake in 1949.

The memorial was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II on 17 October 1953 and the text of her dedicatory address, some of which is reproduced, is displayed inside the entrance. The Queen returned to mark the memorial's 50 years as a place of commemoration and remembrance on 17 October 2003.