Today, my father – Tim Elkington – went up to Derby with my sister Tessa for a dinner hosted by Rolls-Royce as part of the rededication of a Battle of Britain stained glass window (above, from www.the-few.org.uk).
The window was first dedicated in 1949, the year I was born, in the presence of BoB veteran Douglas Bader.
Whisked northwards, and back, in a gleaming Mercedes, Tim was asked to speak at the dinner. Here is what he said:
I’m here today to join with you in remembering those who fought in the Battle of Britain, and your contribution to its outcome.
But more especially, I’ve come to say thank you, Rolls-Royce.
I thank you, first, for the ‘R Type’ engine which powered the Schneider Trophy aircraft and Campbell’s Bluebird, which kick started my career in the Royal Air Force.
And I’m grateful, too, for the hundreds of hours I have flown behind Kestrel, Merlin, Griffon and Derwent engines – in Europe, Russia, on Atlantic Convoys, in India and the Pacific – without a failure.
You have never let me down.
A tribute surely to good design – and the work of your hands?
Slightly ironic that the smoking chimneys shown as background in the Rolls-Royce window symbolise both the effort that went into making the machines that helped win the war, and the damage done to human health and the wider environment by industrial activity – something my own life has been dedicated to flagging and putting to rights.