Britain remembers 70th anniversary of the Blitz

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The courage of the military personnel and volunteers who suffered the ordeal of the intense Nazi bombing of London was remembered Tuesday on the 70th anniversary of the day the first bombs fell.

Former pilots, firefighters, ambulance workers and nurses were among 2,500 people who packed into Saint Paul's Cathedral for a memorial service to mark the start of the Blitz, the Nazi bombing campaign of Britain from 1940 to 1941.

British aircraft from World War II, including a Lancaster bomber and a Spitfire, flew low over London.

The Dean of Saint Paul's, the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, described the cathedral -- which escaped major damage during the bombing -- as "a national icon of defiance and hope amidst conflict."

"We give thanks for the bravery and service of the members of the Royal Air Force as well as those who supported them from the land, especially for those who gave of their time to protect the life and heritage of our homes and cities," he said.

To mark the occasion, extraordinary colour film has been released for the first time, showing bombed-out landmarks in flames and prime minister Winston Churchill inspecting civil defence workers.

The footage was shot by Alfred Coucher, the wartime mayor of Marylebone in west London, who also served as the area's chief air raid warden.

After the war, the films were stored in the attic of his house where they were discovered by his family. They donated them to an architectural preservation society.

September 7 marks 70 years to the day since the Nazis switched the focus of their offensive to non-military targets, with some 1,000 German planes crossing the North Sea to attack cities.

Thousands of people across Britain died in the raids.

© 2010 AFP

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