His Excellency Bernard Emié, the French Ambassador to the United Kingdom will be making an official visit to York on Friday 2nd May.
The main purpose of this visit to the City is to unveil a Civic Plaque at 3:00pm to honour and recognise French fighter pilot Yves Mahé, whose intervention during the York Blitz on 29th April 1942, saved the city from catastrophic damage. The unveiling ceremony will take place at 3pm at St. Martin Le Grand Church, Coney Street, York. The Church itself was badly damaged during the York Blitz.
Following the unveiling ceremony, the Ambassadorial party will make a visit to the Allied Air Forces Memorial (Yorkshire Air Museum) to mark the 70th Anniversary of the formation of Elvington’s famous French Squadrons of RAF Bomber Command.
This tribute by the City to Yves Mahé results from a petition presented to the Lord Mayor of York by pupils of St. Wilfred’s Primary School, York, in April last year. The pupils interest in this almost forgotten hero of the city was triggered when the Yorkshire Air Museum first brought its Hawker Hurricane aircraft into the heart of York in April 2012, to mark what was then the 70th Anniversary of the Baedeker Raid. On learning more of Yves Mahé actions, they decided he should be recognised more fully, and hence the idea for a proper Civic Plaque in his honour. The petition was handed to then Lord Mayor, Cllr.Keith Hyman during the Hawker Hurricane’s visit to York last year. Subsequent lobbying by the Yorkshire Air Museum and the Lord Mayor to the York Civic Trust has resulted in the request being granted and the Plaque to Yves Mahé commissioned.
Pupils St. Wilfred’s School, who made the petition, will be attending the unveiling ceremony.
Museum Director Ian Reed, FRAeS, D’Officier de L’Ordre National du Merite, commented: “We are delighted to be receiving the French Ambassador at Elvington, home to the two famous French Squadrons of Bomber Command, after he officially unveils the City’s tribute to another French airman, Yves Mahé, the fighter pilot who saved York during the Baedeker Raid of 1942. This will ensure that York’s enduring connection to France will never be forgotten and we were delighted to support the pupils of St. Wilfred’s school in their quest for this tribute.”
Note: The French Ambassador is expected to make a short address during the unveiling ceremony.
During WWII, RAF Elvington, upon which the Museum is now based, was the only Bomber Command station to be operated by another nationality, with the two French Squadrons: 346 “Guyenne” and 347 “Tunisie” Squadrons. They commenced operations in June 1944 flying Halifax bombers.