Battlefield History Tours

Battlefield History Tours
Incorporating History and Heritage tours

On Tour - RAAF Bomber Command in the UK Tour 13 July 2023


A very interesting day today as we stayed close to home as we visited the Yorkshire Air Museum. The Museum is at Elvington, only 20 minutes outside York. We arrived at 0930 and parked the coach at the back of the parking area and then at 1000as the Museum opened we entered and started our visit. The Museum is one of the largest independent museums of aviation in the UK. The Yorkshire Air Museum is located on the former site of Royal Air Force Bomber Command Station RAF ELVINGTON. This station was typical of the many which were dotted around the whole of Britain during World War Two, filling the skies with the sound of heavy bombers night after night, and the surrounding towns and villages with the presence of thousands of airmen and women from the allied nations of the world at the time.

RAF Elvington was part of No4 Group and was originally designated as a grass airfield. But in 1942, it was completely rebuilt with the addition of three hardened runways. It was re-opened in October that year as an operational airbase with the arrival of 77 Squadron and their new four engine Handley Page Halifax heavy bombers. Over 30 airfields were in operation at this time within the York region.

RAF Elvington was one of three stations along with RAF Pocklington and RAF Melbourne together known as "42 Base".

46 'Guyenne' and 347 'Tunisie' SQUADRONS - the French Squadrons

In May 1944, Elvington became a French enclave in the United Kingdom, known as 'La petite France' home to 2,000 French airmen, part of the only two French heavy bomber squadrons of the war. Over 11 months, these aircrew carried out 2,467 sorties on Halifax bombers, mostly aimed at destroying Germany's industrial capabilities.

The descendants of these squadrons, called the Groupes Lourds, continue to make an annual visit to the museum once a year. During their visit, they always take the time to go to the memorial erected in the Village of Elvington in the honour of their fathers and grandfathers.

The Museum also has many aircraft on display including the French Mirage Bomber. Many are familiar with the Mirage Fighter but there are few of the bombers outside France and it looks much bigger than its baby sister. The museum conduct running days where they fire up the aircraft and have them running for all to see, maybe they taxy them out onto the airfield which would be well received by visitors. We had a great visit that we extended by an hour to ensure we saw all the aircraft. The museum stores more than 30,000 items and records including a registered collection of artefacts, maps, books, and uniforms of national importance. These are precious resources for historical research. They also record the memories of veterans, aircrew, WAAFs, ATAs to preserve them for future generations.

Most had lunch there in the canteen and when the time was right for our departure, we did so and returned to York around 1400. More adventures tomorrow as we head further south to The Queen's Hotel in Cheltenham. Tomorrow night we will get ready for our big day on Saturday at the Royal International Air Tattoo.

Graham Fleeton.


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