A Monument commemorating 'The Few' was unveiled at the Kent Battle of Britain Museum Trust at RAF Hawkinge
The ‘Spirit of The Few’ Monument was unveiled on Friday 29th July 2022, to mark the sacrifice of 2,938 men who later became known as ‘The Few.’ It depicts the seven life-size bronze sculptures of airmen from 32 Squadron, who were famously photographed at RAF Hawkinge on 29th July 1940, a couple of hundred yards away from where the Museum now stands.
Only one of the seven lost his life during the World War Two, so fortunately most of the sons and daughters were able to attend the unveiling of their fathers. Over seventy next of kin were among the two hundred invited guests, including members of each family, widows, children, and nieces and nephews of the airmen. Some even travelled from as far around the world as America, Bahamas, Switzerland, Gozo, Australia and France.
Special celebrity guest of honour, Sir David Jason OBE, English actor, comedian, screenwriter and producer known for his role in 'Only Fools and Horses,' was due to unveil the Commemorative plaque. However, after testing positive for COVID-19, he was unable to attend. Squadron Leader Woods, Air Officer Commanding 32 (The Royal) Squadron took up the role instead; while a beautiful letter written by Sir David Jason was read in his absence, along with his promise to visit in future.
Aviators from 32 (The Royal) Squadron and their Acting Officer Commanding attended, as well as the Standard Bearer; Colour Party, and RAF Padre who blessed the Monument during the event.
The roar of four Hawker Hurricanes also flew over to the delight of spectators, with only a handful of Hurricanes are left able to fly in the world. The aircraft were kindly provided by the owners and Peter Monk of the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar.
The Monument was originally born from the imagination of Dave Brocklehurst MBE, some thirty-two years ago. Dave often visualised the seven bronze airmen by the three Gate Guardian Hurricanes in the Museum Grounds, open for the public to interact with, rather than being behind a plinth or railings.
Following a serious accident in May 2020, Dave focused himself on the various major projects he has always wanted to progress and discussed his vision with fellow Trustees and volunteers. Excited by the idea, they sourced quotes from sculptors around the country and selected Jane Priston, from SPACERs. Her talent and quality of work was already evident from Jane's work on the Amy Johnson statue on the Herne Bay Seafront and the Gurkha Memorial in Folkestone.
Dave's imagination became reality, after funds were generated by members of the public and the Kent Battle of Britain Museum Trust and fourteen months of sculpting clay and casting bronze at the SPACERs studio in Thanet, Kent.
The airmen commemorated in the Monument are:
- Flying Officer Rupert Frederick Smythe - died in 1980, in Gibraltar
- Flight Lieutenant John Ernest Proctor - died in 1991, in South Africa
- Pilot Officer Keith Reginald Gillman - reported ‘missing’ on 25th August 1940, three miles off Dover
- Flight Lieutenant Peter Malam Brothers - died in 2008
- Flight Lieutenant Peter Mervill Gardner - died in 1984
- Flying Officer Douglas Hamilton Grice - died in 1998
- Flying Officer Alan Francis Eckford - died in 1990
A number of those who gave donations were invited to attend the unveiling, including an elderly retired couple who gave the largest donation to date, three lads that ran multiple marathons in aid of the Monument, and a lady who apologised for not being able to pay it all but still gave £1,000.
The seven sculptures are now displayed on the original grass of Hawkinge Airfield, available for the public to visit at the Museum.