Sunday, 18 March 2012

Yorkshire Air Museum

Supermarine Spitfire Mk 1a 'PR-A'
During World War Two, the East Riding of Yorkshire and in fact many places in the eastern counties of England were host to airfields that were the home of aircraft involved in a battle of survival. East Yorkshire a peaceful quiet rural county today, had many many airfields most of which survive as industrial estates and the remains of the airfield infrastructure can still be seen in some cases.

Once named RAF Elvington, just inside North Yorkshire and on the border with  East Yorkshire, it is now the home of the Yorkshire Air Museum which is run by a registered charity and is an accredited Registered Museum. Run largely by volunteers today, the Museum was reclaimed from the derelict war time buildings starting in 1983 by a band of dedicated volunteers and whilst it is entirely independent and without state or local authority assistance, it is an absolutely wonderful place to visit. 

This is what I did and report to you accordingly with a few pictures.

Just off the A1079 and on the outskirts of York close to the A64, The Yorkshire Air Museum has a fine collection of pre Second World War aircraft, aircraft from the conflict itself and post war aircraft. There are some aircraft that are still in working condition. The piece de resistance is a Handley Page Halifax bomber kept in a hanger and nicknamed 'Friday 13th.'

The Met Office desk in the Control Tower
The site consists of a control tower with exhibits which has been replicated to look like an operational WW2 set up, a NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes) with a great cafe for visitors,  a souvenir shop, a replica officers mess, several exhibitions in the many well maintained Nissan huts on the site, an aircraft hanger with dozens of exhibits all neatly laid out and with exhibit information. This hangar is also a memorial hanger and inside are many memorial walls with the names of thousands of aircrew written onto bricks. Also on site is an archive for research purposes and a chapel alongside a Handley Page aircraft workshop.

Handley Page Halifax ll (lll) LV907
The history of the site is absolutely fascinating and there is tons of material to read and see on the walls and in exhibitions.  The airfield was home to 77 Squadron, RAF a bomber station flying four engined Halifax bombers. Originally a grass airfield, it opened with hardened runways in 1942. After 77 Squadron moved further north in 1944, they were to be replaced by a French Squadron, the 346 (Guyenne) followed by the 347 (Tunisie). All these squadrons played a large part in the offensive during the war. 

Both the airfield and the local village was attacked by enemy fighters in 1945.

The airfield was finally vacated by the military in 1958 and eventually closed although the runways  were used by BAe (originally as the Blackburn Aircraft Company testing Buccaneer aircraft)  and the RAF as a relief runway to practise landings. In 1992, RAF Elvington was closed for good. The runway was the largest in the North of England (you should see the size of the bombers that had to use it!) at 1.92 miles in length.

Although this museum could do with an injection of cash, it is worth every penny of the £8 entrance fee, which goes to the upkeep of the Museum and there are lots of concessionary rates. There is an excellent handbook for just £1 which contains a site map.

The entire site is compact and can be easily walked around within the time I spent there which was around 5 hours. Dogs are welcome and apart from the first floor of the control tower, is easily accessible for disabled visitors.

Flown in in 2010, this is a working 'Mighty Hunter' Nimrod XV250
Despite what we may think of the war or just war in general, men and women laid down their lives to make this country free and there is much to be emotional about when you read the history of conflict and the involvement of the squadrons that flew out of RAF Elvington.

Bearing in mind that a normal squadron was twenty aircraft, by the end of the conflict in 1945, the 77 Squadron RAF had lost 80 Halifax bombers with the loss of over five hundred crew members.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them. 

From 'For the Fallen' - (extract)  Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

Chat soon



  1. this post brought back memories RLS as I was brought up in Lincolnshire where, like East Yorkshire, every piece of flat land sported an aerodrome during the second world war. I remember the sky being absolutely full of four engined bombers going off on their night raids and, being a small child, I never thought of the consequences of such things.
    Loved also that old typewriter on the desk.

  2. Though not mentioned here, my favourite machine I had the privilege to fly in was a 'merkin aircraft, a 1942 Douglas DC3. Sure it wasn't Brit, but they were a cargo 'ship' that passed in the night, and Yorkshire saw a lot of them. In, unload, refuel gone to Ireland....

    Bear says I fly them in my sleep - dunno why, way before my time.

    They were basic, unpressurised, and bloody cold. Easy targets flown by very brave men of both nations.

    Sadly a couple of years ago they had to cave in to EU regs and fly the last ones out of the UK. The cost of modifying them to meet the regs to enable them to fly far outweighed the value of the aircraft :(

  3. Hi Weaver
    Memories are important because you recall an important event in our contries history and it will nudge other memories too I guess. You should pay a visit Weaver, you would thoroughly enjoy it.

    Hi Wheelie
    Indeed the Douglas was American and according to Wikipedia, there are still some operating today. Great memory too! The information at the Museum said that temperatures in the early days for the crew before cabin heating could reach minus 40 degrees Celsius which was not unkown.