Happy Birthday Royal Air Force!
This Easter Sunday we joined rest of the UK in celebrating 100 Years of The Royal Air Force. Officially formed at an RFC aerodrome at St Omer in France on 1st April 1918, on that day, the Royal Flying Corps became the became the world’s first independent air force. A century later, the world has moved incredibly quickly from the concept of air power being a small sub-section of military might to being one of the deciding factors in conflicts around the world.
Here at the Museum, we took some time to commemorate this progression of aerial advancement with a special photo shoot for members of the national and regional press. This was done on the Wednesday before to enable reporters and photographers to file all of the images and stories they needed ready for the Centenary itself. Many of our volunteer team of engineers are still full time aviation specialists working in the forces or associated civilian roles, so the acting element was delegated to others in the Museum team. The Museum’s diverse collection of aircraft provided the perfect backdrop to illustrate an entire century of military aviation with an example of an aircrew uniform from the very beginning of military flight through to almost a modern day fast jet pilot, complete with G suit and a sneaky guest appearance by Gibson Bear, the Museum’s mascot.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a birthday without a cake, so local baker and cake expert Emma Bruning created a beautiful cake to celebrate. We really appreciate her skills and it was with great reluctance that we eventually sliced into the icing and enjoyed eating it. The resulting images and radio interviews were broadcast across the UK and we are grateful to our friends in the media industries for helping us spread the word.
Easter Sunday itself saw the launch of our new RAF100 adventure tail with a combination of quizes for visitors of all ages and levels of knowledge. If you haven’t visited the Museum yet this year, then you will be able to enjoy this new trail that guides visitors around the Museum exhibits with questions for everyone from small children to aviation experts.
Easter Sunday was also White Rabbits day, when we commemorate the unique relationship enjoyed between the people of York and the French Squadrons who were based here at RAF Elvington in WW2. They flew alongside the Royal Air Force to liberate occupied Europe and were very much part of the community of York in wartime. Their lucky white rabbit Nosrtadamus inspires our young visitors to seek out the white rabbits hidden around the museum, answer the clues and learn about this part of history before heading to the Museum shop to enjoy a white chocolate rabbit, created specially for the Museum by Pocklington based chocolatiers Butterflies Chocolates.
Inside our main hangar, Museum guide Harry Welch reminded us of the fact that at the same time as forming the Royal Air Force it was decided it would also be wise to form a special police force to maintain order in the new era of aviation, so the RAF Police was created in the same year. Harry’s experience as a retired RAF Policeman together with a diverse display of artefacts from our archives department proved to be every bit as popular with visitors too. Harry commented, “The RAF Police was probably established at the same time as the RAF as they knew the type of candidate they were going to get to fly aircraft!”
Meanwhile outside, Ken Sanderson and others from our radio team were busy from 6:00am sending out radio messages and ‘working’ stations as far afield as Poland and Russia, Ken wrapped up warm and transported himself to our C47 Dakota and transmitting from there.
Finally, in the afternoon, a huge fleet of classic MG cars arrived at the Museum as the culmination of their charity ~Daffodil Run around the Yorkshire countryside. The cars arrived throughout the afternoon and if visitors were wondering why they were travel stained, it was due to the 90 mile route across Yorkshire on the roads soaked with mud from the recent rains.
Easter Sunday was just the beginning of an entire summer dedicated to celebrating the RAF Centenary from our location here in Yorkshire. You can catch up on our event plans on the calendar or watch out on social media for other great events we have planned further afield outside of the Museum.