The Tribute

Concerns had been raised for years that there was nothing at the airfield that commemorated the RAF Stations' significant and glorious past. In 1998, however, at the October Public Meeting of Kenley and District Residents' Association (KENDRA) a member of the public challenged the Chairman to get something done about it. This provided a springboard to engage on a millennium project that would ultimately see the Tribute unveiled on 19th August 2000.

It needed a few astute men to get this going and people motivated. Mike Street and Chris Baguley were seconded by KENDRA whilst to add historical values two members of the RAF Association; Fred Webb and Ian Croft (a former mayor of Croydon) made up a committee of four to manage the project.

Successful fundraising was going to be the key to getting the job done. KENDRA immediately weighed in with £5000.00, an excellent start. Bound by its own charity rules the RAF Association was unable to follow suit; members of the Association however made significant donations to correct this but financially there was much to do.

There was a need for a plan; what should the monument look like, what materials, where could it be put? The Superintendent of the Commons, Mike Enfield, was held in high esteem by both organisations and was approached and he immediately suggested the Blast Pen adjacent to the most popular entrance to the Common. The RAF Association held a competition to design a monument, it turned out that Fred Webb's design would succeed. In the meantime Funeral Directors and Stonemasons were being approached to gain ideas of suitable materials and costs. One by one all the boxes were ticked and people set to work creating what we have now.

Public and commercial enthusiasm for the project was huge and the projected costs were soon covered. It became clear that the unveiling would have to be a day of celebration. The Queen Mother who with her husband visited Kenley on several occasions during the war was approached but regrettably the Royal Family is not available in August. It was left to Air Marshal Sir Anthony Bagnall, Air Officer Commanding RAF Strike Command prior to consecration by a senior RAF Padre.

It was a wonderful day of celebration and attendance similar to those pre-war Air Pageants that drew 10,000 or more. The day was rounded off by the appearance of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, including the Lancaster, who provided an immaculate display and great feelings of nostalgia for many of those gathered.

The RAF Kenley Tribute is named as such because it is built in tribute of all who served at Kenley since 1917 and of its historic past. It is not right to call it a memorial but it is listed by the Imperial War Museum as such.

The work of Rowland Bros. is acknowledged as is the fine work of their sculptress Bridget Powell.

An anniversary fly past by the BBMF occur each year, a march past on Battle of Britain Day and act of remembrance takes place at Armistice.

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