NATIONAL PRU MONUMENT
When the Spitfire AA810 Project launched in November 2018, one of the missions we set out to achieve was recognition of the efforts and sacrifices made by RAF Photo Reconnaissance Units during the Second World War. The sole purpose of Photographic Reconnaissance was to provide the most up-to-date critical intelligence to the Admiralty who used this information to strategically plan the Allied actions in the war. Alongside the information gathered by the Special Operations Executive on the ground, and the Bletchley Park Code-breakers through the airwaves, the Photo Reconnaissance Unit physically captured 20 million images of enemy operations and installations during six years of war. Without this vital information, the success of operations and ultimately the outcome of the Second World War could have been very different.
From its inception in 1939 through to the end of hostilities in the far East in 1945, these highly effective units suffered horrendous losses, indeed records now show that the survival rate was proportionally the second lowest of any Allied aerial unit during the entire war. Yet these crews have never been officially recognised, their sacrifices largely unknown. Nearly 500 men would become casualties flying with the PRU, five of those men who died flew AA810. Due to the solitary nature of their work 144 of those lost have no known grave including two of our pilots of AA810.
In 2019 the Spitfire AA810 Project began to spearhead a national monument to the Photo Reconnaissance Unit, to directly challenge the UK government to at last commemorate the role this unit played in securing an Allied victory. Meetings began in April of 2019 and by the end of June the question of a National monument was raised in the House of Commons where it was met with approval. In July the formal application for debate was submitted and accepted and Westminster Hall was set aside for the 12th September to hear the case and formalise a Government position on such a monument. Sadly changes in Government circumstances meant this hearing had to be postponed and with COVID 19 then halting non-pandemic related debates, through much of 2020 and 2021 we had to put plans on hold.
In late summer 2021, Andrew Bowie MP resubmitted our formal application for a debate and support was received from across the main political parties. On those grounds our application was accepted and we were subsequently allocated a Westminster Hall debate set for the 9th November 2021. Representatives of the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, SNP and DUP all made representations giving their full support and our motion passed unopposed.
During the first three months of 2022 the project engaged with nearly 100 MPs across all parties who are actively supporting the campaign to recognise those who served in unarmed RAF photographic reconnaissance in the Second World War. In March of 2022 a small team from Project AA810 together with Andrew Bowie MP were hosted by Leo Docherty, Minister for Defence People and Veterans at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall. The Minister reiterated the Government's support for the project and we will now continue to further such meetings with appropriate Ministers and representatives of local authority.
We will shortly be announcing the members of an Advisory Board who will be guiding the project through the process of establishing the monument in line with the required protocols and along side this we will begin the design work on the monument itself. We are aiming for a completed monument to be unveiled by 2024.
A National Monument remains a major goal and on the 36 month anniversary of operations to the day, we gained formal Government approval for one. The journey continues and the Spitfire AA810 project will lead this campaign forward until a design is accepted, funded, and built.
Update March 2022