Allied Air Forces Memorial
In addition to its role as a history of aviation museum, the Yorkshire Air Museum is also home to The Allied Air Forces Memorial. In fact the Memorial came first and was the fundamental reason for the start of the Museum back in the early eighties. The Memorial recognises and commemorates the achievements and sacrifice of allied airmen and women in all conflicts, and being on the largest original wartime RAF Bomber Command Station open to the public anywhere in the world, it has a natural tendency to focus on WWll, although all conflicts are within it’s scope.
The original wartime base area is home to the Memorial Gardens, 77 Squadron Memorial, French Air Force Memorial, RCAF Memorial, Commonwealth Air Training Plan Memorial, RAF Memorial Chapel, and Women’s Air Memorial plus dozens of commemorative trees and shrubs within these award winning gardens. The Memorial Chapel is fitted with original WWll furniture from RAF Scampton, home of 617 Squadron “The Dambusters” (note the RAF organ dated 1937). The dozens of hand sewn kneelers represent the many squadrons, regiments and other organisation which are closely associated with the Museum and many senior military chiefs and politicians recognise and are involved with the memorial – the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton became Vice President in 2009.
Part of the Museum’s work includes the publication of films, books and other projects to commemorate the allied air forces. Currently the Museum has been involved with the creation of 3 documentary films, several books and exhibitions across UK, France and Canada. The Museum’s 1930′s theatre shows these special films throughout the year and includes the rare and unique 1944 film taken here by the French Air Force. You see their preparations for a raid in all the buildings here and then fly out on a hair-razing mission to Leipzig and back.
As veteran associations begin to decline, their standards are officially “laid up” in this chapel, and you will find standards from groups from all over Britain. Three serving padres (including one lady vicar) run the various commemorative functions which are undertaken throughout the year for all arms of service. The Chapel serves as a quiet place for reflection and contemplation for many people whose loss, wherever or whenever they occurred are still very much in their hearts, or for those who simply recognise the great tragedy of war and the scale of the individual sacrifices given.
In September each year the Allied Air Forces Day is attended by hundreds of servicemen and veterans from all over UK, and is one of the largest events of its kind in Britain. Regular annual commemorations for various squadrons, units and regiments take place at the Museum. Every Christmas a brass band Carol Service takes place here and is a popular and traditional event to begin the festive season.
In short, the Museum and Memorial are integral parts of one another, with the Memorial being the heart and soul and the ultimate reason behind everything we do here.