In Pictures: 80th anniversary of Battle of Britain marked in small ceremony

Video report by ITV News Reporter Martha Fairlie

A flypast marked the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain at Westminster Abbey, as only a small number of guests were invited to this year's service due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Around 2,200 people usually attend the annual Sunday service but only 79 invited guests were present this year due to social distancing measures.

The anniversary commemorates the first battle in history fought entirely in the air during the Second World War.

The abbey vowed the service will be "reduced in stature but not in spirit.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives for the service Credit: Aaron Chown/PA
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was also in attendance Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

It was the first major service to take place at Westminster Abbey since the Commonwealth Day service held earlier this year on March 9, two weeks before the UK went into lockdown in response to the pandemic.

Each chair was spaced out two metres apart to allow social distancing, with protective plastic screens separating the north and south transepts.

Prime Minister 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 the Prince of Wales.

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, who honoured NHS staff and key workers in the “fight against an invisible army”.

ITV News Reporter Martha Fairlie from Westminster Abbey

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.”

An officer salutes the Battle of Britain memorial window inside Westminster Abbey Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

The 11am service was led by Dr David Hoyle, the Dean of Westminster Abbey, and 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.

Chairs for the guests, who were all wearing a face covering, were placed at the transepts of the church close to the altar Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

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.

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 British Royal Air Force (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.

Each chair was spaced out two metres apart to allow social distancing Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

Westminster Abbey has held a service of thanksgiving and rededication on Battle of Britain Sunday every year since 1944.

Previous services have been held in the presence of a member of the royal family, and attended by representatives of the government and the RAF alongside veterans and their families.

The service included an act of remembrance Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

Commemorations have been limited this year due to coronavirus restrictions, but a variety of tributes took place across the UK including special exhibitions from the Imperial War Museum, a radar-based lightshow by the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund and the addition of several new sites to the National Heritage List.