Page last updated at 14:32 GMT, Sunday, 21 September 2008 15:32 UK

Service honours WWII RAF airmen

Prince Charles and with Battle of Britain veterans
Prince Charles met veterans of the Battle of Britain after the service

RAF pilots who defeated the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain in 1940 have been remembered at a thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey.

Veterans and their families attended, along with the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and Defence Secretary Des Browne.

The service marks the 68th anniversary of the deaths of 544 RAF airmen.

It was these airmen Winston Churchill referred to in his phrase "never was so much owed by so many to so few".

In his sermon, the Venerable Ray Pentland, Archdeacon for the RAF, described the battle as a victory of "good over evil".

The service was also attended by Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy.

All of you 'the Few' are heroes
The Venerable Ray Pentland, Archdeacon for the RAF

Addressing the congregation the Archdeacon said that battle was "a victory that promised freedom rather than tyranny".

In his sermon he said: "That this battle was won, is in itself worthy of celebration, and today we proudly salute the few and of course the many who supported them.

"Today we celebrate the fact that these few, who would claim they were ordinary, did extraordinary things.

"All of you 'the Few' are heroes.

"Indeed you are more, for you are also living memorials to your friends and colleagues and this morning we thank you for what you did," the Archdeacon said.

After the ceremony, the Prince of Wales, who is patron of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association, and the Duchess met former aircrew members.

Four Tornado F3s also observed the occasion with a fly-past over Westminster Abbey.

The defeat of Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe by the RAF's Hurricane and Spitfire pilots in October 1940 came at a cost of more than 1,000 fighter planes.

But the Luftwaffe's paid a higher price, losing nearly 1,900 aircraft.




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