Visitors to the Museum will quickly become aware of the unique association we have with the aircrews who served here in World War Two. In addition to the RAF’s No 77 Squadron, who were the first residents of Elvington, the airfield was subsequently home to the only two French Air Force heavy bomber squadrons who escaped from occupied France and continued the fight to free their homeland.
Our Halifax Friday the 13th in the museum’s main hangar carries Royal Air Force markings on one side and French Air Force markings on the other in recognition of the contribution made by the 2300 French airmen of 346 and 347 Squadrons who were based here and also their integration and acceptance into RAF Bomber Command and within the City of York.
We have a very strong relationship with the Anciens de Groupes Lourds (heavy group veterans). Their association was formed over 60 years ago to remember the sacrifice of those who served from 1944, flying Halifax III bombers on missions over Europe. Each year, both in nearby Elvington Village and also at ceremonies across Europe, the Groupes Lourds Association continues to attend ceremonies and remember those who flew those dangerous missions, in particular often bombing their own homeland in the full knowledge of the risks to their fellow countrymen. They suffered the same 50% fatality rate as the rest of RAF Bomber Command. It was a terrible experience even though we know from their letters that they were absolutely resolved to free their country from tyranny, whatever the cost..
So, it is with particular pride that we announce that Museum Director, Ian Reed has been appointed Vice-Président d’Honneur of the highly regarded Groupes Lourdes Association of France, in recognition of his work in developing the Yorkshire Air Museum over the past 20 years and promoting the memory of the French crews of 346 “Guyenne” and 347 “Tunisie” Squadrons of RAF Elvington. The “Eternal Flame to the Unknown Soldier” beneath the Arc de Triomphe in Paris is to be re-ignighted on April 25th this year to commemorate those who flew from Elvington.
Ian Reed said, “This is a great honour from such a very special organisation, which represents those brave French airmen who joined Britain to free Europe from occupation 75 years ago. The memory of what occurred between 1939 and 1945 is still very relevant. It still appears in various ways every single day on television and newspapers across the world and is an important reminder as to how civilised society can quickly devolve into bloodshed and chaos. It also shows the indomitable human spirit of those brave people who put their own lives at risk to restore peace. By maintaining this story and of those who stood against tyranny, Groupes Lourds are sustaining the human memory so that hopefully it will never happen again”.
As we begin a year of commemorations for the Centenary of the formation of the Royal Air Force and 100 years of close co-operation between the RAF and French Air Force we will also enjoy celebrating the unique Anglo/French relationship formed here at RAF Elvington with the City of York and Elvington village.