Crowds lined the streets of Melton on Sunday as the town paid its annual tribute to those who fought in a definitive battle in the skies above England during the Second World War.
The Battle of Britain took place 77 years ago and resulted in an heroic victory against the odds for the heavily outnumbered Royal Air Force over the German Luftwaffe.
It prevented an invasion of Britain by Hitler’s Nazis following the fall of France, prompting Prime Minister Winston Churchill to say famously in a speech that ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few’.
The Melton branch of the Royal Air Force Association (RAFA) organises the annual parade to mark the iconic dogfights involving Spitfires, Hurricanes and other fighters between July and October 1940.
The party gathered at 11am, as ever, in Park Road in the town, before marching along Nottingham Street and into High Street, led by the 1st Loughborough Boys’ Brigade Marching Band.
Also taking part in the parade were members of the RAF police at the Defence Animal Centre in Melton, representatives of RAFA and members of both the Melton and Rutland Air Training Corps squadrons.
The parade halted at the Memorial Gardens at Egerton Lodge for a short service led by the RAFAC Padre, followed by the sounding of the Last Post and Reveille.
Wreaths were laid by Mayor of Melton, Councillor Tejpal Bains, Melton Town Estate Senior Townwarden Dinah Hickling, plus representatives of the men’s and ladies’ sections of the Royal British Legion, RAFA, the RAF Police and the air cadets.
The parade formed again and marched back to Nottingham Street where it was dismissed.
RAFA Melton chairman Paul Davies, who read a dedication at the service, said: “It’s important that we mark the Battle of Britain in this way because what happened there is why our freedoms have come about today.
“If they hadn’t done their bit the Germans would have invaded Britain.”
He added: “Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the formation of the RAF and I am sure we will be organising something big in the town to mark that.”
Later in the day, at 6pm, a service of dedication was held at Sage Cross Chapel, in Sage Cross Street, conducted by the Rev James Skinner.
Standards were paraded and lessons were read by Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, Jennifer, Lady Gretton, and by the Mayor.
In the week leading up to the parade, collections were made for the Wings Appeal, the RAFA fundraising initiative to support serving and former serving RAF personnel and their families.
Brenda Cox, Melton branch secretary for RAFA, said: “We raised around £1,000 from street collections on Tuesday and Saturday and we believe we’ve raised around £4,000 altogether, which is up on last year.”