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Berlin Airlift veterans remembered

12-May-2009

Events to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Berlin Airlift, and the outstanding contribution of UK Armed Forces throughout the campaign began on May 12 in Berlin.

Forty British veterans visited the former RAF Gatow Airfield in Berlin, where they operated from during the June 1948 to May 1949 campaign.

The veterans then travelled to Airlift Memorial at Templehof Airport where an international commemoration took place. Wreaths were laid on behalf of the countries involved in the Airlift. Citizens of Berlin stood alongside veterans of the campaign from the UK, USA, France, Australia, Canada and New Zealand for a minute’s silence to remember those who lost their lives in ensuring others did not. 39 personnel from the UK were killed in the operation.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, who attended the event, said “The Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force, supported by civilian and Allied aircrew from around the world, tackled the seemingly impossible task of keeping Berliners alive during the ten-month blockade of their city.

“This was a difficult, unglamorous and dangerous undertaking – the biggest humanitarian operation ever conducted. The operation demonstrated the strategic importance of air power but also the West’s determination to prevent Soviet expansionism in the confused early days of the Cold War. The consequences of failure for the people of Berlin and Western Europe would have been profound and I therefore salute the achievements of everyone involved in the operation.”

Airlift veteran Geoff Smith, Chairman of the British Berlin Airlift Association, said “Today brings back many memories of Operation Plainfare. Standing alongside my fellow comrades and the people of Berlin, I am so proud of what we achieved sixty years ago. Those who lost their lives are not forgotten and our success truly was a defining moment in the history of the Cold War.”

British aircraft flew more than 175,000 trips to and from the city as the RAF, supported by civilian pilots and Army teams on the ground, faced the most challenging of conditions in ensuring that the two million people living in Berlin did not starve or freeze to death when their supplies were cut off by the Soviets.

Events will culminate on September 26, the anniversary of one of the final flights, with a commemorative event organised by the Ministry of Defence at the Berlin Airlift Memorial in Staffordshire. Service veterans, those who supported from the civilian population, and their families, are urged to apply for tickets to attend to what is likely to be the last major commemoration for this remarkable endeavour. For further information on the events visit www.veterans-uk.info or call 0800 169 2277.

Filed Under Historic Aviation News, General Aviation News.

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