Ruth Wishart sparked outrage when she posted her controversial views on social media. The journalist and broadcaster tweeted: “WW2 finished 75 years ago. None of the Battle of Britain pilots is still alive. It’s not dishonouring their memory or any sacrifices to think it’s time to move on.”
Any chance you and your party might move on from the Battle of Bannockburn (1314)
BBC political heavyweight Mr Neil was quick to respond with a savage put down.
He tweeted: “Indeed. Any chance you and your party might move on from the Battle of Bannockburn (1314).
“I don’t think anybody who took part is that is still alive either.”
Ms Wishart was then forced to apologise for her initial tweet after being told one of the flying aces who protected Britain in 1940 was still alive today.
She said: “Sincere apologies to Battle of Britain pilot John Hemingway who is still alive at 101. I suggested none were, and got that wrong.”
Andrew Neil has hit out at SNP activist Ruth Wishart
The Battle of Britain was a major air campaign fought in the skies over the UK in 1940, and although the battle took place between July and October, September 15 saw the RAF gain a decisive victory over the Luftwaffe in what was Nazi Germany’s largest daylight attack.
Some 1,120 Luftwaffe aircraft were sent to attack London, but were repelled by just 630 RAF fighters – and two days later Hitler postponed his plans to invade Britain.
Westminster Abbey has held a service of thanksgiving and rededication on Battle of Britain Sunday every year since 1944.
Ms Wishart’s comments came as the heroism of “The Few” was acknowledged at yeterday’s small and intimate service at the abbey to mark the battle’s 80th anniversary.
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The 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain was marked with a memorial service at Westminster Abbey
The Battle of Britain memorial service ended with a poignant flypast
The annual service usually attracts around 2,200 people as the UK remembers the first battle in history fought entirely in the air during the Second World War.
This year’s service – the Abbey’s first since lockdown – saw attendance significantly reduced and social distancing measures in place for 79 invited guests.
Chairs for the guests, who were all wearing a face covering, were placed at the transepts of the church close to the altar.
Each chair was spaced out two metres apart to allow social distancing, with protective plastic screens separating the north and south transepts.
Boris Johnson was among the guests at the service, as well Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Stirrup, representing Prince Charles.
Mr Johnson, along with the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, gave a reading, while an address was given by the Chaplain in Chief, the Venerable Air Vice Marshal John Ellis.
He drew comparisons between the Battle of Britain and the coronavirus pandemic, stating: “Once again there have been sacrifices made, often quiet, often humble, unnoticed by many.
“Although starkly different events, each of them has two things that are so important for our humanity – service and value.
“We have seen the selfless giving to a greater cause.”
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This year’s Battle of Britain memorial service was scaled down because of coronavirus
Led by Dr David Hoyle, the Dean of Westminster Abbey, the service included an act of remembrance, during which the Battle of Britain Roll of Honour bearing the names of 1,497 pilots and aircrew killed or mortally wounded in the battle was borne through the church.
This was followed by a procession of flags, readings, prayers and music by the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment and singing by the church choir.
Around 50 members of the public gathered outside in the sunshine at Westminster Abbey to watch the flypast, which flew over the venue at the end of the service.