We are the Yorkshire Air Museum and Allied Air Forces Memorial
We are one of the largest independent museums of aviation in the United Kingdom. Our museum sits on the former site of RAF Elvington in North Yorkshire, a World War II airfield used extensively by Allied Bomber crew during the war.
Our museum is a registered charity dedicated to the history of aviation which was also set up as a Memorial to all allied air forces personnel, particularly those who served in the Royal Air Force during WWII.
Our unique assets are:
- An authentic WWII Bomber Command site with original buildings, offering a unique atmosphere and strong national and local heritage.
- The only complete restored Halifax Bomber aircraft in Europe.
- A site of historical significance as it was home to the only two French heavy bomber squadrons of WWII between 1944 and 1945.
- One of the rare reproductions of the Cayley Glider, the first British manned flying vehicle, created by Scarborough born Sir George Cayley.
Allied Air Forces Memorial Day, September 2019
To Honour, Educate, Inspire
- We seek to Honour the memory of Allied Aircrew during WWII.
- We are passionate about educating the public in the history of aviation, particularly in Yorkshire, and explaining the importance of forging international partnerships.
- Our work is lead by a desire to inspire future generations to take up careers in the fields of engineering, aviation, history and diplomacy.
Our Values are Respect, Inclusivity and Friendliness.
Bringing people together through learning.
We wish to inspire audiences and contribute to life-long learning, helping people to understand and negotiate the complex world around them.
Preserving our collection
We store in excess of 30,000 items and records including a registered collection of artefacts, maps, books and uniforms of national importance. These are precious resources for historical research. We also record the memories of veterans, aircrew, WAAFs, ATAs to preserve them for future generations.
Taking care of our aircraft
We wish to inspire audiences and contribute to life-long learning, helping people to understand and negotiate the complex world around them.
Explaining our heritage
We aim to interpret our collections in a stimulating way to help people understand new ideas and old concepts and make sense of Elvington’s heritage.
Caring for our visitors
We strive to deliver a memorable experience for all our visitors and make everyone visiting our site feel welcome.
Providing a fulfilling volunteer experience
We offer stimulating volunteering opportunities and projects which foster pride, happiness, friendship and fulfilment.
A brief HISTORY of the Yorkshire Air Museum
The Yorkshire Air Museum is located on the former site of Royal Air Force Bomber Command
Station RAF ELVINGTON. This station was typical of the many which were dotted around the whole of Britain during World War Two, filling the skies with the sound of heavy bombers night after night, and the surrounding towns and villages with the presence of thousands of airmen and women from the allied nations of the world at the time.
RAF Elvington was part of No.4 Group and was originally designated as a grass airfield. But in 1942, it was completely rebuilt with the addition of three hardened runways. It was re-opened in October that year as an operational airbase with the arrival of 77 Squadron and their new four engine Handley Page Halifax heavy bombers. Over 30 airfields were in operation at this time within the York region.
RAF Elvington was one of three stations along with RAF Pocklington and RAF Melbourne together known as “42 Base’’.
77 SQUADRON – an International Squadron
77 Squadron was stationed at RAF Elvington from October 1942 until May 1944. From this station, 77 Squadron took part in the Battle of the Ruhr. The squadron suffered major losses particularly over Berlin and, during the 18 months it was based here, they lost almost 80 Halifaxes and over five hundred aircrew.
For further information about 77 squadron, visit their association website here https://77squadron.org.uk/history/77-squadron-history-1937-1945/
346 ‘Guyenne’ and 347 ‘Tunisie’ SQUADRONS – the French Squadrons
In May 1944, Elvington became a French enclave in the United Kingdom, known as ‘La petite France’ home to 2,00 French airmen, part of the only two French heavy bomber squadrons of the war. Over 11 months, these aircrew carried out 2,467 sorties on Halifax bombers, mostly aimed at destroying Germany’s industrial capabilities.
The descendants of these squadrons, called the Groupes Lourds, continue to make an annual visit to the museum once a year. During their visit, they always take the time to go to the memorial erected in the Village of Elvington in the honour of their fathers and grandfathers.
AFTER THE WAR
In October 1945, the two French squadrons returned to France, to Bordeaux, where they became part of the new French Air Force post-war. RAF Elvington was transferred to 40 Group, Maintenance Command. In 1952, it was handed over for use by the United States Air Force, Strategic Air Command. A major reconstruction began which included lengthening
and strengthening the runways to accept the latest jet bomber aircraft as part of the Western Powers’ nuclear deterrent. However, the base never became operational and was vacated in 1958.
The longest runway in the North of England
At 1.92 miles (3.08 km), the runway is the longest in the North of England. The aircraft apron alongside is still one of the largest areas of concrete in the Britain at 49.374 acres.
In the early 1960s, the Blackburn Aircraft Company at Brough (now BAe Systems) used the runway for test flying the prototype Buccaneer aircraft. Thereafter, the RAF Flying Training Schools at Church Fenton and Linton-on-Ouse used the airfield as a Relief Landing Ground to practise circuits and landings. RAF Elvington was officially closed in March 1992.
THE FOUNDING OF THE YORKSHIRE AIR MUSEUM
In 1983, the original WWII Control Towers and buildings had become derelict and a small team lead by local resident Rachel Semlyen set about the project to try to save this special site. They negotiated a temporary lease and began the long process of clearing the site and restoring the buildings to turn it into a Museum.
In June 1985, the Yorkshire Air Museum and Allied Air Forces Memorial was born and granted charitable status. It began receiving donations and artefacts and purchased the wartime site which now extends to 20 acres. Since opening, the Memorial Museum has grown in strength and reputation. It is now supported by 160 staff and volunteers.
In June 2019, the Museum adopted its new mission statement:
To Honour, Educate and Inspire.
About our Board of Trustees
Mr W F M Withers DFC LLB FRAes (Chair)
Mrs E R Semlyen (Vice-Chair)
Mr R A Emmett
Mr A P Ridge
Colonel (Retd) J Goodsir CBE
Wing Commander H C Newbould RAF
Martin Withers, Chairman of the Board, was born in Surrey and educated at Trinity School, Croydon followed by Birmingham University LLB (Law). He joined the Royal Air Force and became a Pilot and Flying Instructor on Vulcans and Jet Provosts.
He was Captain of the Vulcan to bomb the runway in the Falklands Conflict 1982 on two missions (Black Buck 1 & 3) for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).
In 1991 he retired from the RAF as Squadron Leader and was subsequently an airline pilot with Jersey European, Airworld, Caledonian, and Thomas Cook Airlines – forcibly retired at age 60 (maximum age for airline captains over many countries at that time). One year later he joined Zoom Airlines – forcibly retired again in 2008 when the airline went bankrupt, although he was not entirely grounded as already flying Vulcan XH558 as co-pilot.
In 2009 he became Chief Pilot and Operations Manager for the Vulcan to the Sky Trust displaying the last remaining Avro Vulcan for seven years, until ‘forcibly retired’ for the third time in 2015 when the aircraft was permanently grounded when he says he “was only 69!”
Rachel Semlyen, Vice-Chair of Trustees and Chair of the Fundraising Committee. She founded the Museum in the early 1980s, inspired by visiting French and 77 Squadron RAF veterans to what was then a derelict airfield next to her family’s home. With her job as Press Officer for the City of York at the time, she could see the potential for a museum and memorial and was able to gather support, publicity and sponsors to restore the site and establish an educational charity. She was the museum’s chair of trustees for its first seven years and has been on the Board for three different spans of time since then.
A graduate of the University of Sussex where she was the first secretary of the Students’ Union, fundraising, public relations, marketing and publishing have always been a part of her professional life, in both the public and private sectors. Formerly: Marketing Director of horticultural company, Rolawn Ltd, and of Royal Fireworks Press, New York; owner of PR and marketing company, Rachel Semlyen & Associates; sixth form teacher; co-author of a history of York’s Mansion House and its Lord Mayors; former school governor and currently a member of St Lawrence PCC .
When not involved with the museum or maintaining the website of 77 Squadron Association, she volunteers for York Civic Trust and organises weekly home-baking for a local food hub. She enjoys classical music concerts, walking, and being part of the lives of her granddaughters.
Robert Emmett was born in Hereford in the West Midlands and has been married to Pat for 53 years. He graduated with a degree in Chemistry from Manchester University in 1967 and took up employment with the leading manufacturer of friction products for automobiles (cars and commercial vehicles) in the same year.
Worked within this industry for 41 years in total, the final 22 years of which were based in Germany. During this time he progressed through a series of management roles which included Company Research and Development Director, Group European Product Business Director, Group Global Product Research and Development Director, culminating with the position of Company Managing Director (Geschäftsführer) from 1997 until early retirement and return to the UK at the end of 2007.
He joined the Museum as a volunteer gate steward in March 2008, moved into Aircraft Engineering in 2010 and joined the Board of Trustees in July 2018.
He enjoys DIY, golf and travel and speaks fluent German and French to “O” level standard.
Anthony Ridge, Chair of the Finance Committee, was born and grew up in London. After Oxford he took law exams and was admitted as a solicitor 1969. He practised law in Zambia, Central Africa, then newly independent, and settled in York on return to UK in 1973. By then he was married to Judy and they had three children, all now grown up and married and living in Leeds, so they become a true Yorkshire family.
He worked at the York firm Denison Suddards, later Denison Till, and was senior partner for ten years or so, then consultant, retiring in 2008. He specialised in company, commercial and employment law and also had some international practice as he speaks several languages.
He has been associated with the museum for many years being brought into it by his uncle, Robert John Sage, who flew Halifaxes from Elvington during the war with 77 Squadron RAF and later was the Museum’s first President.
Colonel John Goodsir is a former career soldier who retired in 2002. He specialised in operating military helicopters worldwide but was also employed in various Joint Service appointments in the UK Ministry of Defence and NATO.
From 1997 to 2002, he was the Senior Army Officer at RAF Strike Command where he was responsible for certain key aspects of Inter-Service cooperation and training. During his 37 year career he travelled extensively in Europe and regularly lectured on Air Power issues to aspiring NATO and EU members following the break-up of the former Soviet Union.
He was awarded the MBE in 1980 for his work in Cyprus, was Mentioned in Dispatches in Northern Ireland and was made a CBE for his contribution to the expansion of NATO and in particular to the Stabilisation Force in Bosnia.
He is a former chairman of the York U3A and of the military charity SSAFA in North Yorkshire. He is currently Chairman of the Reserve Forces and Cadets Finance Advisory Board for the NE of England and a council member of the Air League.
He enjoys classical music and is a patron of both Opera North and the Liverpool Philharmonic. His connection with the Yorkshire Air Museum dates back to the days when he was vice chairman of the Aircrew Association which played a significant role in the development of the museum and particularly its Archives.”
Jon Armstrong is a graduate of the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne (BSc. Hons. Mining Engineering) and a qualified Chartered Accountant. After completing a short service commission with the Corps of Royal Engineers, part of which was spent supporting the Harrier Force in Germany, he then completed his professional accountancy training with KPMG, one of the “top 4” global audit and accountancy firms.
Since 2000 he has been employed in a variety of roles by PD Ports Limited, one of the major UK ports groups. Whilst he is currently the Group HR and Statutory Compliance Director, responsibilities have previously covered a wide range from core accounting and finance through to the warranted Harbour Police and Security functions. He is also Designated Representative for the Group’s Port Marine and Safety Code (“PMSC”) obligations. In addition , he remains a Trustee for two of the Groups pension schemes.
Married to Stella for 29 years, with four children who are all now in their 20’s. The perfect weekend, aside from family life, would incorporate some military aviation, a little bit of military history, some photography and a dip in the river Tees
Wing Commander Howard Newbould joined the Royal Air Force in 1980 as an aircraft technician and worked on Lightnings and Wessex helicopters. After a number of postings, including a detachment to 72 Squadron in Northern Ireland, he was awarded a commendation by the CinC Strike Command in 1987 and was commissioned the following year. Since then he has filled a range of appointments in the intelligence, cyber, information operations, defence diplomacy, and station management fields. He has served on operations in Kosovo, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan and is currently Stn Cdr at RAF Linton on Ouse.
In addition to routine command, staff and branch training, Wing Commander Newbould has attended the Higher Air Warfare Course at Cranwell and qualified as a UN Military Observer following training with the Russian Armed Forces at the Vystrel Academy in Moscow. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management and was recently awarded a Post-Graduate Diploma in Cyberspace Operations from Cranfield University.
He is married to Sue and has two children, Helena and William. He is a keen aviation historian, collects vintage aviation books and aeronautica and enjoys running, hill walking and reading.