A Cumbrian Second World War RAF veteran has joined celebrities, serving personnel and members of the public in paying tribute to those who took part in the Battle of Britain, which took place exactly 80 years ago.

Douglas Newman LVO DFC, president of the Cockermouth branch of the Royal Air Force Association, shared his memories of the Battle of Britain as part of a national project to commemorate the heroism and sacrifice made by all those who stood resolute in the face of the Luftwaffe in the summer of 1940.

The Royal Air Force Association project, "The Greatest Salute", is collecting the nation's messages of thanks for all military and civilian personnel who made victory in the Battle of Britain possible.

The association will then bury these messages in a commemorative time capsule in the RAF Association Garden of Remembrance at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Now 98, Douglas was a civilian junior technician working on the early warning radar network dotted across the country during the Battle of Britain.

The network was vital for alerting RAF Fighter Command that German squadrons were approaching, giving Spitfire and Hurricane pilots time to get their fighters airborne and intercept the approaching fighters and bombers, before the RAF's airfields and other critical infrastructure could be destroyed.

Douglas joined the RAF the following year, and served on Wellington and Halifax bombers as well as Dakota transport aircraft, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

As a civilian technician working for the Post Office Engineering Research Station during the Battle of Britain, Douglas' role involved plenty of time spent at numerous radar sites across the country, all of which were prime targets for Luftwaffe bombing runs throughout the summer.

“Our work involved the design and production of a back-up synchronising system for the early warning radar network, in case the primary system was disrupted by bombing," Douglas explained.

"Radar stations were, of course, vital in the control of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain.

“My own work, as a junior technician, included working visits to Fighter Command HQ and to about half of the individual Chain Home radar sites.”

“I was a very young man at the time, and, while the experience of being dive-bombed at close quarters was certainly a unique experience for me, I had to carry on with my work.

"Most of the radar stations were bombed repeatedly, and many WAAF radar operators lost their lives.”

In addition to his role as a technician, Douglas was also a member of the Air Raid Precaution (ARP) organisation, which helped to protect civilians from the numerous air raids experienced throughout the war.

"On one occasion I had to decide which emergency service to call first when a bomb smashed a crater into a road," Douglas said.

"A gas main was alight, water was gushing from a broken pipe, and a nearby house was going up in flames. Those were very challenging times indeed.”

Douglas was to see many more challenging times over the following four years once he joined the RAF and found himself serving on Halifax and Wellington bombers.

RAF bomber crews experienced some of the most appalling losses of all British military personnel during the Second World War - close to half of them had been killed by the war's end.

The Battle of Britain, which took place between July and October 1940, was a summer of pitched aerial battles in which RAF and Royal Navy aircraft fought a desperate struggle against the air force of Nazi Germany, which sought to destroy the UK's aerial warfare capacity as a prelude to an invasion of Britain following the complete capture of France that summer.

Douglas' note of thanks to all those who played a part in the Battle of Britain paid tribute to all those who kept the planes flying, as well as those who flew them.

“I pay tribute to the efforts of everyone who participated in the Battle of Britain," he said.

I want to thank the pilots who fought against the formations of Nazi bombers and fighters, the crews who bombed the fleets of invasion barges along the continental coast, and their fitters, riggers and armourers.

“I also pay tribute to the WAAF members working at the radar sites, the sector controllers whose skills positioned our fighters to best advantage, members of the Royal Observer Corps, the airmen and women of RAF Balloon Command, the Army and Navy units involved, as well as all the civilian organisations and medical services.

“It was ‘the few’ – the Battle of Britain pilots – who captured the admiration and gratitude of our nation, but there were also “the many”, whose contributions to victory were also of great significance.”

Several celebrities, RAF veterans and serving personnel, including Red Arrows pilot Flt Lt Nick Critchell have joined Douglas in also paying tribute.

Former RAF fast jet pilot and ex-England rugby international Rory Underwood was among the first to provide a tribute, recording a short video message.

Rory, who lives in Lincolnshire – home to more than 40 RAF stations and airfields during the Second World War – said: “It may be 80 years since the Battle of Britain, but the heroic and selfless deeds of so many people will never be forgotten.

“I dedicate my ‘Greatest Salute’ to every single individual who contributed to securing victory.”