Over 2000 French airmen from 346 Guyenne and 347 Tunisie Squadrons lived in and around the city.
Along with British and Allied crews within RAF Bomber Command, over 50% of their young aircrews were killed, often in horrific circumstances, for the liberation of France and Europe.
The young French airmen were renown for the skill and accuracy of their flying, aware that in many cases, they were bombing their own country, yet the loss rate for flying these extremely dangerous missions was very high. Their courage, humour and style were typically French and they became very popular in their unique dark blue uniforms with gold braid. Many married local girls and the area around the base soon became known as “Petit France”.
On 20th October 1945 the two squadrons returned to Bordeaux to become the Air Force of the newly liberated France.
On 20th October 2011, 66 years after that momentus day, a unique memorial will be inaugurated in York Minster.
For the first time in English history a French Memorial will be placed in an English cathedral. York Minster is the largest gothic cathedral in Northern Europe and the country’s “second church” – a fitting place for this unique monument to our Anglo-French heritage and common history.