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
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 2,500 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, led by local residents Rachel Semlyen and Ian Wormald, 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.