RAF personnel erect memorial in Lithuania

MISSION MARKED: Members of 135 Expeditionary Air Wing, based at RAF Leeming attend a memorial ceremony at the Hill of Crosses, in Lithuania

MISSION MARKED: Members of 135 Expeditionary Air Wing, based at RAF Leeming attend a memorial ceremony at the Hill of Crosses, in Lithuania

First published in News

RAF personnel have erected a memorial to mark their mission to patrol the skies of north-east Europe.

Members of 135 Expeditionary Air Wing, based at RAF Leeming, near Bedale, North Yorkshire, placed a cross at the Hill of Crosses, near Siauliai, Lithuania.

The personnel were deployed there in April, to support the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission, in response to Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis and mounting international tensions.

The Hill of Crosses has held an important role in the Baltic state’s history since the 19th Century, although the exact reason for placing crosses there is not known.

It is believed the tradition began in defiance of religious persecution, when locals placed forbidden memorials to their dead.

The Hill of Crosses was bulldozed under the Russian occupation during the Second World War, but a memorial stone was placed there on the 100th anniversary of the1863 uprising against the Tsarist regime, and the hill has since become a place of pilgrimage for Catholics worldwide.

After learning about the site, senior aircraftmen, Dan Herrick and Aaron Penfold, erected a cross, while RAF Leeming padre Reverend Stewart Shaw led a ceremony.

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