Britain Unveils Memorial to WWII Bomber Command
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II unveiled a memorial Thursday to the tens of thousands of airmen killed in the World War II bombardment of German cities.
The Bomber Command Memorial in central London's Green Park is dedicated to the 55,753 Royal Air Force crew who lost their lives in the conflict.
Their bombing raids flattened German conurbations, killing tens of thousands of civilians in cities such as Hamburg and Dresden.
The survival rate for Bomber Command crew was not much better than one in two but more than 5,000 veterans joined the queen and other royals for the unveiling.
The £7 million ($10.9 million, 8.7 million euro) memorial is made out of Portland stone -- as are many of London's most famous buildings.
It shelters a bronze sculpture depicting a seven-man bomber crew returning from a mission.
In a nod to the air raid victims, an inscription was included commemorating all the lives lost in the bombings, which has the blessing of the eastern German city of Dresden.
"We are close friends with people in Britain, we are twinned with Coventry (a heavily bombed city in central England), and at first we were surprised that the memorial was being constructed," said Heike Grossmann, spokeswoman for Dresden Mayor Helma Orosz.
"Our mayor raised concerns when she happened to be at an exhibition in London and met London Mayor Boris Johnson.
"The inscription is a further gesture of reconciliation between Britain and Germany."
The late Bee Gees singer Robin Gibb, who died last month, spearheaded the campaign to create the memorial. His wife attended the unveiling.
Westminster Council, the local authority, granted the permission to build.
"This memorial has been the subject of controversy by a vocal minority," said councilor Alastair Moss.
"We believe Westminster Council was absolutely right to grant consent for a monument which reflects what the majority of today's public want to say about bravery, sacrifice and suffering."
Dudley Hannaford, 88, who came from Sydney for the service, served as a wireless operator on Lancaster bombers.
"I had 18 operations over Germany and I was shot down on the 18th," he said.
"I joined up with the pilot and we tried to evade capture, which we did for 16 days, but we ran out of food and had to give ourselves up."
He said the memorial unveiling was "absolutely wonderful".
"It makes me think of release and victory. I only played a very small part in that, but it is something to be very thankful for."
Veteran Cecil Hayley told the BBC: "I sometimes look back in horror to think what I was required to do. But... it was part of the task of finishing the war and I console myself that this is what we had to do."