Commemoration at Ely 18th December 2018
The Heligoland 39 Family Gathering
The Old Palace
At 12 noon over 80 relatives of the RAF crewmen who took part in The Battle Of Heligoland Bight gathered at The Old Palace close to Ely Cathedral. Some had travelled from as far away as Canada, Australia and France and others from across the UK.
They were able to meet up with their own family members and also with the families of men who were in the same crews as their relatives on that fateful day in 1939.
Interest in the project spanned across the
generations and contemporary music and
refreshments were enjoyed by all.
Others present included serving RAF personnel, GAF Regiment Officer, Squadron Associations, the Mayor of Ely, Officiating Clergy from both the UK and Germany, Ely Civic Leaders, Standard Bearers representing The Royal British Legion and reenactors in 1930's and 1940's costume.
Act of Remembrance at Ely Cathedral
To remember the 59 young men who lost their lives on Monday 18th December 1939 in the skies over Heligoland Bight, and also others that took part and who lived on to fight another day
Just before 14.00hrs the participants of the family gathering walked the short distance from the Old Palace to the magnificent Ely Cathedral to join other interested parties already present for the remembrance service. A group of 59 individuals comprising of relatives of RAF crewmen, serving RAF personnel, GAF personnel and Squadron Associations, had been asked to take an active part in the service by laying a ceremonial disc for each of the men who had died in the battle.
This group, together with the Mayoral Party and Clergy were led down the nave by Standard Bearers of the Royal British Legion where each took their place encircling the Octagon Altar.
The sounds of aircraft flying overhead and morse code messaging added to the ambience as did the emergence from the North Choir Aisle of serving RAF personnel dressed in period flying gear
A service was then conducted jointly by British and German clergy. As the names of the 59 service men who died in the battle were recited, a ceremonial disc in the design of a red poppy with blue forget-me-nots, was laid around the altar to represent each one.
The service which included intercessions and prayers, a reading by a family member and trumpet and cello solos, was concluded with a 59 second silence following 'The Last Post'
Dispersal To The Lady Chapel
Following the service the congregation gathered in The Lady Chapel of the Cathedral where a small exhibition giving details of the Heligoland 39 Project was on display. Each person who had laid a ceremonial disc had retrieved it at the end of the service and brought it to the chapel where all the discs were assembled into an artwork named 'The Heligoland39 Memorial Cluster'. This was to remain in the Cathedral on display adjacent to the RAF Roll of Honour until New Years Eve 2018.