In addition to our role as an aviation museum, the Yorkshire Air Museum is also the Allied Air Forces Memorial. In fact the Memorial aspect was the fundamental reason for the founding of the Museum back in the early 1980’s. 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 our scope.
Retaining the authentic atmosphere of a wartime operational base, the site contains the 77 Squadron Memorial, Elvington’s first ‘home’ Squadron, located at the entrance to the Museum. The main Memorial Garden, one of the first parts of the site to be reclaimed, contains the French Air Force Memorial, RCAF Memorial, Commonwealth Air Training Plan Memorial and the Air Transport Auxiliary Memorial.
The Women’s Air Services are recognised in their own unique Memorial Garden and dozens of commemorative trees and shrubs have been planted within these Yorkshire in Bloom Award winning gardens, twice receiving the Silver Gilt commendation. The Memorial Chapel is fitted with original WWll furniture from RAF Scampton, home of 617 “The Dambusters” Squadron (note the RAF organ dated 1937). The dozens of hand sewn kneelers represent the many squadrons, regiments and other organisations 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 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, many of their Standards are officially “Laid Up” in this chapel, and you will find Standards from groups from all over Britain. Our Honorary Chaplains conduct 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. It contains the Book of Remembrance, to which additions can be made by request and donation.
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.
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.