Battle of Britain museum opened by Prince Charles

Project manager Erica Ferguson gives BBC News a tour of the museum

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The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have opened a museum that commemorates the Battle of Britain.

The museum is housed in Bentley Priory, a mansion house that served as RAF Fighter Command's headquarters during World War II.

The rooms of the building in Harrow, north London, are now open to the public for the first time in 80 years.

The royal couple met veterans including female fighter controllers, and watched a memorial flypast.

BATTLE OF BRITAIN, 1940

An RAF fighter squadron 'scrambles' after receiving the signal to engage the enemy during the Battle of Britain
  • 18 June: Churchill announces "... the Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin."
  • Mid-July: The battle begins. Luftwaffe focuses on attacking shipping and coastal defences
  • 12 August: Luftwaffe's focus shifts to destruction of RAF
  • 4 September: Luftwaffe, on Hitler's orders, switches tactics to destroying London and other major cities
  • 15 September: 'Battle of Britain Day' - RAF savages the huge incoming Luftwaffe formations in the skies above London
  • 17 September: Hitler postpones plans to invade Britain.

The female fighter controllers, known as the Beauty Chorus, were wartime members of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and played a crucial role in identifying and intercepting incoming Luftwaffe bomber raids.

Several female veterans from Hampshire, Wokingham, Kent and Dorset, some of whom served at Bentley Priory, were present at the event.

'Never gave up'

They played a crucial role in identifying and intercepting incoming Luftwaffe bomber raids during World War II.

Prince Charles said: "Having just become a grandfather, one of the great things I remember when I was very small is having stories told to me about the war.

"I wanted to know everything in those days, as I was born in 1948."

Saying he had been lucky enough to meet some of those who defended Britain as part of Fighter Command, the prince added: "I at least have some idea of the remarkable nature of such people like, of course, the wonderful lady veterans who are here today from the filter room.

"At the age of 18, 19, 20 they were ensuring that this country never gave up."

The Prince of Wales, who is patron of the Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust, also unveiled a bust of Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding, who led RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain.

Built in the late 18th Century, Bentley Priory is a Grade II-listed building set in 57 acres of parkland.

It was an RAF headquarters complex until 2007, when the Ministry of Defence decided to close it.

The building is where Air Chief Marshal Dowding planned and commanded the defence of the country during the Battle of Britain.

The museum pays respect to the battle's RAF pilots, of whom Winston Churchill said: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

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