Queen unveils WW II Bomber Command memorial

Queen Elizabeth unveils a new memorial to honour the 55,573 men of the RAF's Bomber Command who died in the Second World War.
Queen Elizabeth unveils the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park, London, on Thursday as Prince Philip and Prince Charles (right) watch. (John Stillwell/Associated Press)

Queen Elizabeth has unveiled a new memorial to honour the 55,573 men of the RAF's Bomber Command who died in the Second World War.

The memorial features a 2.7-metre high bronze statue depicting seven aircrew. 

The roof of the £6-million ($9.8-million Cdn)  memorial, which is in London's Green Park, is made from aluminum recovered from a Handley Page Halifax III bomber that was shot down over Belgium in May 1944, the BBC reported.

Held up by controversy

The large number of civilian deaths in the campaign remains controversial, and is one reason there has been no memorial until now.

The German city of Dresden — where 25,000 civilians died in bombing raids — initially objected to the memorial. But the objections were eased by the placing an inscription commemorating all the lives lost in the bombings of 1939-45.

The service Thursday was followed by a flypast of the Royal Air Force's last flying Lancaster Bomber.

Queen Elizabeth talks to Ed Carter-Edwards (left), a former member of Bomber Command from Canada, after unveiling the Bomber Command Memorial in London on Thursday. (John Stillwell/Associated Press)

The vintage plane dropped poppies over the park as a message of remembrance for those who died.

A group of 42 Canadian Bomber Command veterans are in London this week for the unveiling of the memorial, joined by veterans from Australia, New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries.

Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney led the Canadian delegation in London.

"The memorial will serve as a permanent reminder of the many sacrifices made by these brave men and women," Blaney said in a statement.

"After proudly serving our country, our veterans deserve our recognition and respect. Our government will continue to ensure that their sacrifices and contributions will be remembered for future generations."

Earlier this week, Canada unveiled a new military honour to pay tribute to Canadian veterans who served in Bomber Command. The honour is a bar to be worn with the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal

The government says the new bar is meant to honour all Canadians who fought in Bomber Command during the Second World War, but in particular the more than 10,000 Canadians who died in service.

With files from CBC