Header image: The BBMF Bomber Leader, Flight Lieutenant Neil ‘Faz’ Farrell, touches the Bomber Command brass plaque on the side of Lancaster PA474 as he climbs in. (Photo: Lisa Harding)
During the TV programme about the BBMF, ‘Flying for Britain’, presented by Sir David Jason OBE and first broadcast on ITV on 15th September, there was a brief mention of the BBMF crews touching the brass plaque on the side of Lancaster PA474 as they climb in and out, at the start and end of each sortie. Some readers may not have been aware of this tradition, almost a superstition, that has developed on the Flight in recent years and the reasons for it.
On the outside of the Lancaster fuselage, just aft of the door on the starboard side, a small brass plaque is mounted, showing the Royal Air Force Bomber Command badge, with its motto “Strike Hard Strike Sure” and an inscription “To Remember the Many”, a counterpoint to the “The Few” of the Battle of Britain. It commemorates all those who flew with RAF Bomber Command during the Second World War, especially the very many who lost their lives carrying the fight to the enemy.
At the beginning and end of each flight in the Lancaster, the BBMF aircrew each touch the Bomber Command plaque as they climb in and out, in a poignant and moving act that demonstrates their recognition of the true significance of what they are doing. They are not flying the Lancaster just for fun or to display to a crowd; they are commemorating all those who flew RAF bombers on dangerous operations during World War Two. In total, some 125,000 young men flew with RAF Bomber Command during the war; they were all volunteers and their average age was 22. Of these, 55,573 were killed, 9,838 became POWs, and another 8,403 were injured; a total of 73,814 casualties. On Lancasters alone, 22,743 aircrew did not return at the end of their missions, either killed or captured. The souls of all of them fly with today’s BBMF Lancaster crews.