My thanks to reader Lleweton who sent me a Daily Mail article about the possible closure of St George’s Chapel of Remembrance in Biggin Hill, Kent. (Photo credit: Best Places to Visit in Kent)

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The Ministry of Defence is unable — unwilling? — to find £50,000 to maintain the Royal Air Force chapel which commemorates airmen who died in the Battle of Britain.

The Mail reports:

Defence Minister Anna Soubry said it ‘no longer provides support to an operational RAF station and as the number of serving RAF personnel using the chapel is very low, continued support to the chapel would be an inappropriate use of defence resources. My officials… have met with the local chaplaincy council to discuss the closure of the site’.

The fact is that the RAF left Biggin Hill in October 1992.

Furthermore, whilst there might not be many ‘serving RAF personnel using the chapel’, the Battle of Britain’s page on St George’s states:

Some 12000 people visit the chapel each year, and in addition to regular weekly services, special commemorative services are held on Battle of Britain Sunday and Remembrance Sunday.

And:

There is an Anglican Service every Sunday at 9.30am and Roman Catholic Mass each Saturday at 6pm.

The Telegraph tells us:

More than 25,000 visitors are expected to visit the chapel this year, the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, ahead of its closure in 2016 if a benefactor cannot be found to keep it open.

RAF veterans and officers have voiced their disapproval of the MoD’s decision. It appears that the Government would like to see the chapel funded privately. However, £50,000 seems a small amount for the MoD to find.

Martin Michener has posted an online petition to keep the chapel open. The petition closes on March 30, 2015, so there is plenty of time for interested Britons to sign it.

The Telegraph article states:

The chapel floor is made of wood from wartime aircraft propellers and stained glass windows commemorate the dead, whose names are inscribed in a roll of honour.

Geoff Simpson, a Battle of Britain historian, said: “There’s a lot of distress about the decision.

“It’s a very historic place and a very moving place and it was certainly the hope of Winston Churchill that it should remain forever.

“Many people regard it as one of the major memorials to ‘the few’ and just to walk inside the door its an experience that anyone with an interest in the battle should have.”

It is also an international chapel, as Allied airmen who died are also remembered, including those from Commonwealth countries, Poland and what was then Czechoslovakia.

The construction of St George’s was a project close to Winston Churchill’s heart. He wrote personally to thank members of the public who donated to the building fund.

In 1951, when the chapel opened, he said (emphases mine):

As a nation, we have short memories, and it is well [that this memorial] should bring to our remembrance the cost of our victory in the days when one of our fighter pilots had to be worth ten. They died without seeing the reward of their efforts; we live to hold their reward, inviolate and unfading.

It seems that our Conservative government does indeed have a short memory.

Fortunately, the 26,000+ people who have signed Mr Michener’s online petition ‘hold the reward’ of the fallen ‘inviolate and unfading’.

It is to be hoped that their signatures prevail and that St George’s Chapel remains open.

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