The £7m Portland stone memorial also has been given the blessing of the German people after an inscription was included commemorating all the lives lost in the bombings of 1939-45.
Dudley Hannaford, 88, who came from Sydney, Australia, for the service, told how he served as a wireless operator on Lancaster bombers flying out of RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. “I had 18 operations over Germany and I was shot down on the 18th,’’ he said.
“I joined up with the pilot and we tried to evade capture which we did for 16 days, but we ran out of food and had to give ourselves up.”
He said the occasion was “absolutely wonderful.’’
Other veterans came from Canada and New Zealand.
As well as the bronze sculpture, the memorial’s roof is inspired by a Vickers Wellington aircraft and incorporates sections of aluminium recovered from a Handley Page Halifax III bomber shot down over Belgium on May 12, 1944, killing eight crew. It will be handed over to the RAF Benevolent Fund to maintain.
Briton Les Ellingham, 89, from Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, told how he was a wireless operator on Stirling bombers flying out of RAF Oakington in Cambridgeshire in 1942 and 1943.
“I got shot down over Belgium on June 21, 1943, and was on foot in Belgium and Holland, trying to escape, but was finally caught in France.”
The project initially raised concerns in Dresden where 25,000 civilians were killed in Allied bombing raids in 1945.
Heike Grossmann, spokeswoman for the mayor of Dresden, Helma Orosz, said the inscription to all those who died was “a further gesture of reconciliation between Britain and Germany.”
THE creation of a memorial to the unsung heroes of Bomber Command is long overdue, according to the Deputy Mayor of Kirklees.
Clr Martyn Bolt, whose uncle Norman Bolt (inset) flew more than 50 missions and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, said the memorial was needed to recognise the devastation and loss of life.
Mirfield Tory Clr Bolt said: “Because of the technology of the times civilians were killed on both sides, whether in Dresden or Coventry, but those who served their countries should not have been penalised and marginalised for this long.”
Clr Bolt has letters of congratulation to his grandmother from the MP for Mirfield, Maj William Woolley, from when Norman was decorated, and also one which refers to his experiences while on a mission over Munich.
Clr Bolt added: “Bomber Command also played a vital part in bringing relief to occupied countries, and that has also been forgotten.
“Operation Manna dropped food into occupied countries as the people were starving.”
Warrant Officer Bolt, who grew up in Mirfield, was 25 when he was awarded the DFC for his wartime services in the RAF.
Formerly a bus conductor, he joined the RAF in 1941 and took part in 53 missions including the bombing of Italy and Germany.
He was a gunner in a Lancaster and flew missions to Berlin seven times.
Mr Bolt later set up his own firm, Car Collection Services, in Huddersfield.
In 1993 Mr Bolt told the Examiner of one mission over Munich in 1943 when his plane landed with a punctured tyre on the rear under-carriage.
The rear end of the Lancaster was replaced with the back end of another damaged aircraft.