CEO visits The National Memorial to the Few
Chief Executive Maggie Appleton MBE enjoyed a change of scenery when she headed to the white cliffs of Dover to pay her own tribute to the heroes of the Battle of Britain.
The National Memorial to the Few at Capel-le-Ferne, a mile or two along the coast from Folkestone, is the central feature of an impressive tribute to the events of 1940 that has developed steadily since its unveiling in 1993.
After welcoming several Trustees to RAF Museum London earlier this year, Maggie was invited back to tour the Battle of Britain Memorial site and learn how it has grown since the stone carving of an airman was unveiled by Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1993.
She was taken around the site, now flanked by a Spitfire wing-shaped visitor centre, by Trust chairman Richard Hunting CBE, secretary Patrick Tootal, Trustee Andy Simpson and site manager Jules Gomez.
She confessed to being “absolutely bowled over” by the clifftop Memorial, adding: “It’s the emotional connections the site makes that are so strong. The combination of stunning architecture and views, with such a moving focus on the aircrew who took part in the Battle, is a very powerful one.”
Maggie was told about the various stages of development at the site, from the airman statue unveiled by the Queen Mother to the 2015 opening of The Wing by her daughter, Her Majesty the Queen, accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh.
But while more features have been added to what has become one of the top tourist attractions in Kent, chairman Richard Hunting stressed that the peaceful open area surrounding the Memorial would always be kept clear, at the request of The Queen Mother herself.
All the recent additions, including a replica Spitfire and Hurricane, a bust of Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park and the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall, are on the periphery of the central area, marked by three large propeller blades laid out in white brick and radiating out from the central statue.
Pausing at the Memorial Wall, which lists every one of the allied aircrew who took part in The Battle, Maggie sought out the name of Wing Commander Tom Neil, DFC*, AFC, a personal hero of hers.
In the Wing visitor centre, she was treated to a special screening of a unique film that runs in The Scramble Experience and is moving enough to have reduced one member of the Few to tears when he saw it at the opening ceremony in March 2015.
The chief executive said the unique Wing building and the views over the Channel, allied to the content in The Scramble Experience and the atmosphere of the site, together made for an unforgettable visit.
“I am determined to return soon – and bring my family,” she concluded.