In a spectacular straight lift in the early hours of Saturday 28th June, the Hawker Hurricane (FSM) aircraft from the Collection of the Yorkshire Air Museum will be placed on the roof of the café of York Theatre Royal to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the French Air Force arriving in York. This is one of the City’s most important links with France and highly significant as the city hosts Stage 2 of the Grand Départ of the Tour de France.
The lift coincides with Armed Forces Day, and will have additional poignancy as the City remembers all service personnel from WWI to the present day.
In June 1944 the two newly re-formed French bomber squadrons became operational with RAF Bomber Command at RAF Elvington (now the Allied Air Forces Memorial and Yorkshire Air Museum) with 346 “Guyenne” and 347 “Tunisie” Squadrons commencing combined operations on 1st July 1944, on missions bombing targets in their home country. They were unique in Bomber Command, with Elvington being the only base to be operated wholly by another nationality. Some 2300 French personnel were stationed at the base and 51% of their aircrews lost their lives on bombing missions in just 18 months.
Ian Reed, Director of the Yorkshire Air Museum explains: “As this significant 70th Anniversary coincides exactly with the build up to the Grand Départ of the Tour De France in York, the Hurricane will provide both an amazing talking point for the City’s celebration of this magnificent sporting event and provide a visual spectacle for the television camera’s following the peleton as it swoops past the Theatre Royal, with York Minster resplendent in the background. The Hurricane also reflects another wartime link to France, as it was a French pilot, Yves Mahé flying his 253 Squadron Hawker Hurricane, who first intervened to save York during the ‘York Blitz’ of April 1942.” He said, “I would especially like to thank the support given by many organisations which have enabled us to host these events, including: York Theatre Royal, City of York Council, Volker Rail, East Coast; The Dossor Group and Saville Audio Visual”.
Other events commissioned by the Yorkshire Air Museum to mark this 70th Anniversary of the French Air Force in York are a conceptual art sound scape, “Maintenant”, capturing 100 sounds of York and 100 sounds of Paris and a new play, ‘Cis and Barbiche’, based on the true wartime romance between a young French airman, Francis Usai, and the young girl, Barbara Rigby, who he meets on arrival in England to commence training as an Air Gunner with Elvington’s French Squadrons. Both of these will be staged at the Theatre Royal during the week of the Grand Départ.
The Hurricane perched on the roof of the Theatre Royal will provide a beacon for the Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight who are conducting a flypast over York on Sunday 6th July in honour of the French Airmen of WWII, heralding the start of the Grand Tour de France peleton.
Attached image shows the York Theatre Royal with the flat roof of the café on the left above the entrance lobby, with the Minster in the background.
The Yorkshire Air Museum’s Aircraft Engineering team will arrive at Exhibition Square with the Hurricane at 4am on Saturday 28th June to reassemble the aircraft after transport to the site by road. St. Leonard’s Place will be closed to traffic from 5am to 7am to allow the huge crane from Volker Rail to move into place to effect the lift. The aircraft will be lifted whole.
Media are requested to be in place from 5:15am to position themselves. The lift is due to commence at 5:30am and no-one will be able to access the lifting area when this commences.
It is essential to register your attendance in advance for Health & Safety compliance.
The lift will generate media friendly images, of something never before seen in the city.
The Museum’s Hurricane has been exhibited at the Royal International Air Tattoo and Royal Windsor Tattoo in previous years.
Ian Richardson Communications Manager
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