A spitfire flew over the National War Memorial in Wellington today as the Air Force paid tribute to New Zealand airmen on the 74th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
At least 127 New Zealanders took part in the battle, which saved Britain from Nazi invasion in 1940.
Retired Air Vice-Marshal Robin Klitscher told APNZ the pilots who won the Battle of Britain were an inspiration to him as a boy. Although he was only nine when the war ended, he recalled a huge sense of relief in New Zealand when the German onslaught stopped.
Mr Klitscher said in withstanding Hitler's invasion, 3000 airmen achieved what hundreds of thousands of allied soldiers could not do in France a few months earlier. "They stopped what both the French and British military establishment had failed to stop."
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Klitscher said New Zealand supplied the third highest number of pilots during the Battle of Britain, behind the United Kingdom and Poland.
Mr Klitscher said next year's 75th anniversary would be a major event and he would attend -- as long as he was "still vertical".
Retired Rear Admiral David Ledson said the average age of pilots in the battle was 22. Mr Ledson said high casualty rates meant on becoming a Spitfire pilot, an airman was expected to live only four weeks.
Eleven wreaths were laid at Massey University's Great Hall in Wellington, beside the war memorial. Members of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, several diplomats, local councillors, veterans, and local MPs Paul Foster-Bell and Kris Faafoi attended.
Air Force squadron leader Sean Perret flew the Spitfire over Wellington's waterfront before flying past the memorial.