A LONE canvas-covered Fairy Swordfish biplane flew slowly over Dover seafront on Saturday afternoon in tribute to Fleet Air Arm crews who were killed on a "suicide mission" in the Dover Strait 70 years ago.
Below, on the sea front, about 500 spectators including representatives of the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force watched the First Sea Lord unveil a memorial to those who died during Operation Fuller – a failed attempt to prevent German battlecruisers dashing through the English Channel. Earlier in the afternoon a Spitfire had roared over the parade in tribute.
The impressive new memorial commemorates the 18 young men of the Fleet Air Arm who took off from Manson in February 1942 in six torpedo-carrying Swordfish aircraft to attack the huge German fleet that included the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen protected by flak ships, E-boats and about 200 fighter aircraft. The six Swordfish, with no protection, were just shot out of the sky. Only five of the 18 airmen survived.
Among those at the ceremony were Major General Charles Ramsay, the son of Admiral Bertram Ramsay, who at Dover Castle was in charge of Operation Fuller, and Vice Admiral Otto Ciliax, the son of the commander of the German fleet that day. Also present were representatives of the Dover-based motor torpedo boats and gunners at St Margaret's who took part in the operation.
The ceremony was organised by The Channel Dash Memorial Trust with a naval guard of honour provided by the frigate HMS Kent, in port for the weekend. The Central Band of the Royal Air Force provided music. More than 30 Standards were on parade to be dipped in salute as the Last Post sounded. Uniformed members of the Duke of York's Royal Military School were also on parade.
The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, said the memorial commemorated the bravery of not only the British crews but also those of the German battleships who made the dash through the Channel. "This memorial symbolises human endeavour and loyalty on both sides in the conflict," he said.
Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke said: "It was a great day for Dover to see the Channel Dash monument unveiled on the seafront.
"The Channel Dash was one of the great events of the Second World War.
"The event was a great success and took a lot of organising. Many congratulations to the Channel Dash Association for their successful campaign for a monument and for organising a day that went so well. Even the weather smiled on Dover."