A £6m memorial remembering the 55,573 airmen of Bomber Command who died during World War II is being unveiled by the Queen.
Measuring 9ft tall and featuring the figures of seven aircrew, the bronze sculpture in London”s Green Park is the result of a five-year campaign.
The division founded in 1936 to control the RAF”s bombing forces, was the subject of the famous Dambusters movie.
It told the story of 617 Squadron”s bombing campaign on dams in Germany using a new kind of “bouncing bomb”.
Sculptor Philip Jackson said his work portrayed the moment the pilots came back from a mission.
“I chose the moment when they get off the aircraft and they”ve dumped all their heavy kit onto the ground, and they”re looking back and looking for their comrades.”
On the base was an inscription saying it “also commemorates those of all nations who lost their lives in the bombing of 1939-1945”. In spirit of reconciliation, the statue also honours those who died in the raids.
Some 6,500 of veterans, widows and loved ones attended the ceremony along with Prince Philip, Prince Charles, who both wore military dress, and the Duchess of Cornwall.
The service of remembrance ended with a Lancaster Bomber dropping 82,000 poppies in a flypast.
Pilot Alan Biffen, 87, told the BBC: “I am so glad that at long last Bomber Command is being remembered not only for what it achieved but also for the lives of the young men who never came back.
“Many of them were boys. I myself added a year to my age at 16 so that I could join the air force.”
Before the big day, one of the three surviving Dambusters George “Johnnie” Johnson told the Daily Telegraph he would make the trip to honour his fallen comrades.
His son Morgan said: “He is very, very keen that people who died serving with Bomber Command should be commemorated.”