At 10:30am on 20th October this year, the inauguration of the French Air Force Memorial took place in York Minster – the 66th anniversary of the French heavy bomber squadrons leaving Elvington to return to liberated France.
Over 2500 visitors of all nationalities attended the Minster from Britain, France and other nations including veterans, servicemen and women and the families and friends of those who fought from Elvington and other RAF bases across Britain during World War Two.
Dignataries included: Sir Stephen Dalton, Chief of the Air Staff; General Jean Paul Palomeros, Chief of the French Air Force; M. Bernard Emie, French Ambassador; Gerald Howarth MP, Under Secretary of State at the MoD; General Fouilland, Chief of the French Strategic Air Force, Lord James Crathorne, Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, High Sheriff, Rt Hon Lord Mayor of York and Sheriff of York plus many other notable guests.
A March-Past by service men and women of 100 Squadron RAF with bayonets fixed, plus ATC and Squadrons Association standard bearers from UK and France were accompanied by the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment. A flypast by a Rafale of the French Air Force was accompanied by an RAF Typhonn and followed by a “9 ship” Tocano flypast, four French twin engined Xingu’s and the BBMF Lancaster.
The event formed the heart of the The French in York Week from 17th to 23rd October 2011 across the City of York, to celebrate our cultural and historical connections and to take this forward through mutual tourism and business opportunities.
Festivities throughout the week included parades, exhibitions, displays, film premier, lectures, business expositions and market. The Museum’s Hurricane replica was stationed in the City Centre for the whole week with RAF/French Air Force re-enactors.
Many businesses, educational and cultural organisations took part and helped to make this a unique Entente Cordiale. The event was broadcast across France and the BBC and ITV showed features throughout the week.