The Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) Luxembourg Branch held its annual Wings weekend from Friday 4 October to Sunday 6 October 2019.
The Wings weekend, held every October in support of the Association’s Wings appeal, started on Friday night with a reception hosted by the British Ambassador to Luxembourg, John Marshall, at his residence in Luxembourg City. The Ambassador was joined by around 100 guests, including serving members of the Royal Air Force (RAF) from both UK stations and military units across Europe, as well as members and friends of the Association from the Grand Duchy and the UK.
The Ambassador welcomed his guests and thanked them for coming. He began by thanking Colonel Yves Kalmes, Commander of the Diekirch Military Centre, as well as "the many representatives who are day in day out keeping the memory of the Second World War alive and educating young people about the sacrifices that so many of our service people, but also our citizens, made, whether Luxembourgers or from the Allies". Ambassador Marshall also thanked the members of the RAF and the Association, including Air Marshall Sir Graham Stacey, who serves as the President of RAFA Luxembourg and all other European and overseas branches. He finally welcomed French Ambassador Bruno Perdu and New Zealand’s Ambassador Gregory Andrews and his wife, who travelled over from Brussels for the event.
Ambassador Marshall then emphasised the importance of the annual Wings weekend in "remembering the dead, having that sort of comradeship and raising money for those in need" – representing the Association’s three main objectives of remembrance, comradeship and welfare. He added that the event allows participants to thank Luxembourg for its role in preserving the memory of those who sacrificed their lives during the Second World War.
The British Ambassador presented the example of Weiswampach, a municipality in northern Luxembourg where thirteen young men from the RAF, Canadian Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force died in the two Lancaster crashes. On the night of 12-13 August 1944, a German pilot shot down two Lancaster planes within the space of two hours. The Weiswampach municipality later erected the “Lancaster Memorial” in honour of their sacrifice. Indeed, Ambassador Marshall highlighted the contribution of such events to UK-Luxembourg relations: “The links that were forged between our two countries through the Second World War remain at the heart of the relationship”.
For his part, Air Marshal Stacey added that “the Royal Air Force Association of course is about the living as well. And it's about looking after people from the air domain”. He went on to emphasise the importance of "the support, the understanding, the commit and the energy from the people who support the local branches". Sir Graham Stacey concluded by thanking the British Ambassador and the Embassy for their continued support for the RAFA. He told Ambassador Marshall: "You set the benchmark for all others to follow".
On Saturday morning, a remembrance parade was held at the Lancaster Memorial in Weiswampach. The event saw speeches from Luxembourgish MEP Charles Goerens and representatives of the Grand Ducal Fire and Rescue Corps (CGDIS), as well as a dedication of the RAFA. The Mayor of Weiswampach, Henri Rinnen, along with the British and New Zealand Ambassadors were among the first to pay their respects in the wreath-laying ceremony. Joseph Lorent from the Committee for the Remembrance of the Second World War (Comité pour la mémoire de la Deuxième Guerre), Air Marshal Stacy and Air Commodore Wendy Rothery also laid wreathes at the memorial. The ceremony continued with a verse of remembrance from Flying Officer James Osborne, last post, a moment of silence, music from the Weiswampach Band, an RAF prayer and the national anthems.
The British Ambassador and RAFA members and guests then returned to the Weiswampach Centre to hold a remembrance ceremony at Monument aux Morts. On this occasion, the Mayor of Weiswampach, Ambassadors Marshall and Andrews, Joseph Lorent, Sir Stacey and Mr N Bunting laid wreathes in honour of the Luxembourgish soldiers and civilians who lost their lives during the war. The Weiswampach Band again played the Luxembourg National Anthem. The ceremony was followed by speeches and lunch at the Weiswampach cultural centre, where the RAFA thanked the municipality for their hospitality and continued support with a signed sketch of an RAF pilot.
On Saturday evening, the Luxembourg branch of RAFA held its traditional charity Gala Ball at the Novotel hotel, where His Excellency John Marshall was the guest of honour. A brunch on Sunday afternoon brought this year’s Wings weekend to a close.