The RAF Memorial at Engelfield Green, high on a wooded hill above Runnymede in Surrey, commemorates the 20,456 men and women from throughout the British Empire whose lives were lost without trace during the Second World War and so have no grave to mark their passing or their ultimate sacrifice.
The names of every one of these air-force men and women, along with their rank and nationality are engraved - column after column - into the white stone walls of this wonderful and emotive monument. The place is quite beautiful, light, airy and tranquil; the seemingly endless lists of names bringing home the true meaning of the number of sad deaths it commemorates. A chapel, painted ceilings and stained glass add to the solemnity and sanctity of this memorial but more touching are the personal reminders left by visiting relatives of those now long dead - small bouquets of flowers, a faded photograph of a young man in RAF uniform, a news cutting of some posthumous award, or even a Photostat of the dreaded 'missing in action' telegram.
The siting of the memorial befits its importance. Climb to the top and one can gaze down on Windsor Castle, the aeroplanes parked in rows at Heathrow, the meadows of Runnymede where King John sealed the Magna Carta in 1215, and the winding River Thames below. Beyond one can clearly identify the Wembley Arch and other prominent landmarks while in the grey distance one can see the London Eye and the high rise buildings of the City of London. The skyline may have changed over the past seventy years but - at such a height - one can almost feel an affinity with those to whom the sky was their element.
This is no tourist attraction for the amusement and entertainment of kids in the general sense(although an education for everyone and especially for children who are receptive to learning) but an experience not to be missed if you are in the area and want to appreciate the absolute sacrifice made by young men and women from Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, India and all across what is now deprecatingly called the British Empire.
Without their sacrifice we might all now have 'sunk into the abyss of a new Dark Age' predicted by Churchill.
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