Two tireless campaigners toast unveiling of Bomber Command memorial after five year campaign

Two tireless campaigners will toast the unveiling of the first Bomber Command memorial after a tireless campaign to honour the 55,573 lives lost from the “shunned” RAF regiment.

David Graham, and Dennis Gimes, chairman and director of the Heritage Foundation, were at the centre of the mammoth task of raising �6million for the much-anticipated monument in Green Park, central London.

Mr Gimes, of High Road, East Finchley, rallied celebrities as diverse as actor Ewan McGregor, Queen founding member Brian May to pose for photos with Roger the Bomber Command Bear to raise awareness of the campaign.

Politicians including the Prime Ministers of Canada and New Zealand also supported the effort by having their picture taken with the teddy.

But raising the vast sums of money required to build the nine-foot bronze sculpture of seven Bomber Command air crew was only half the battle, as campaigners said they faced reticence from figures in authority.

David Graham, from North Hill, Highgate, came up with the “long overdue” memorial five years ago.

He said: “I’m so proud, it’s been hammered into me from a young age that you should always try to achieve things for other people.

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“It’s a national disgrace that we’ve never honoured these brave young men, who night after night risked their lives. Now we can say that we have said thank-you.”

The Bomber Command regiment has been politically controversial since the notorious bombing campaign in Dresden, Germany, just months before the end of World War Two in which 25,000 civilians died.

Tensions peaked two years ago when the Mayor of Dresden urged campaigners not to go ahead with the memorial.

But Mr Gimes insisted the monument was never meant to offend the people of Dresden.

He said: “Nobody is glorifying the deaths of the civilians, including many women and children, but we do want to remember the bravery of the Bomber Command officers.”

The 125,000-strong Bomber Command, which sank more German ships than the Royal Navy, had one of the highest World War Two casualty rates, losing nearly half of its airmen during the conflict.

Veterans from across the world will be joined by thousands of others, including widows and family members, in Green Park on Thursday, June 28, to witness the Queen’s unveiling of the memorial.

The grand finale will be a flypast by the RAF’s last flying Lancaster Bomber which will drop poppies over the park as a poignant reminder of the lives lost by Bomber Command airmen.

Mr Gimes said: “This is something that should have happened nearly 70 years ago.

“It’s sad that so many of them never lived to see this, but I’m glad that the time has finally come.”