A grand salute to ‘The Few’

Guests gather at the Spitfire Memorial
Guests gather at the Spitfire Memorial

A special celebration took place at the town’s Spitfire Memorial, just off Bo’ness Road, on Friday to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

There were many esteemed guests present, including Lady Odette Dowding, daughter-in-law of Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding – the Scotsman in charge of RAF fighter command all those years ago.

The emotional event saw a wreath laying service conducted by Abbotsgrange Church and Grangemouth Air Cadets minister Reverend Aftab Gohar and a spectacular fly past by three Grob Tutor aircraft from Tayside Aviation just as the sun began to set over the town.

When the service came to an end guests boarded coaches to the nearby Inchyra Grange Hotel for dinner and a Battle of Britain address from Grangemouth ATC group captain Bob Kemp and a “toast to the few” from Squadron Leader Bruce Blanche.

Tom McMorrow, Air Training Corps special project officer for Scotland, helped organise the night. He was commanding officer of Grangemouth Air Cadets during the period they worked so hard to put the Spitfire memorial in place.

Tom said: “We had around 20 of the cadets from that time at the dinner. Some of them are no longer with the squadron so it was a kind of reunion for them.”

Four of these “Spitfire Cadets”, Flight Sergeants Scott Queen, Tom Paxton and James Macfarlane and Warrant Officer Shahan Gohar, made special presentations to Group Captain Kemp and Spitfire memorial trustees Provost Pat Reid, Iain Mitchell and Sir David Tweedie and his brother Colin.

Everyone received a limited edition Spitfire model except the Tweedies, who got a replica Lancaster Bomber to honour their father who served as a tailgunner with a Lancaster crew.

Tom said: “We marked the world event, but we made sure it was a community commemoration as well. It was a great night and turned out they way we wanted it.”

Co-organiser Iain Mitchell added: “It was perfect and everyone represented the town well for such a major event. Thanks go to Grangemouth’s Street Lighting Supplies who fitted the lights at the memorial free of charge.”