After many days of Yorkshire rainfall leading up to Remembrance Sunday, it was refreshing to see such a bright, mild and sunny Sunday morning as we gathered for Remembrance Sunday.
The first ceremony took place at the French Memorial in Elvington Village, where the Parade of Scouts, Cubs, Guides, Brownies and Beavers, largely drawn from nearby Elvington and Sutton on Derwent, joined us at the Groupes Lourds Memorial on the outskirts of the village.
This unique Memorial, inaugurated by the Groupes Lourds French Veterans Association in September 1957, stands in tribute to the two French heavy bomber Squadrons (Groupes Lourds) of 346 “Guyenne” and 347 “Tunisie” Squadrons that flew from RAF Elvington with Halifax Mk.III four engine bombers.
It was inspiring that no less than 19 members of Groupes Lourds were able to join us this year. While the original veterans grow a little older and remained in France this year, there were new members who had not been to Elvington before and are only beginning to discover the story of their relatives who flew from here in World War Two.
We were joined by military representatives from a variety of Allied Air Forces to lay wreaths on behalf of their nations. Able to be with us were the Deputy Lord Lieutenant North Yorkshire Captain Stephen Upright, Lt. Col. Lionel Valin, French Air Force, Lt. Col. Thomas Graham USAAF, Major Marcel Le Forge, Royal Canadian Air Force, Sqd. Ldr. Daniel Dobbin, Australian Defence Force and Flt. Lt. George Fairhurst, Royal New Zealand Air Force. The Royal Air Force was represented by Wing Commander Howard Newbould, now Station Commander RAF Linton on Ouse in its transition phase, who is also a Trustee of the Allied Air Forces Memorial.
All laid wreaths, joined by Ray Kidd OBE, representing York RAF Association. Ian Richardson, Head of Memorials & Heritage at the Museum laid a wreath on behalf of the Royal Norwegian Embassy together with museum director Barbara George and Jonathan Laverack for Elvington Parish Council
Museum Director Barbara George said, “It was truly inspiring to see so many young people joining us to remember those who brought peace in Europe and it is heartening to know that they wish to learn more about those who sacrificed so much”
“Remembrance is a time when we honour the fallen but importantly when we need to get insight and strength to gain the wisdom of peace”
All the representatives attended the later Service in the Yorkshire Air Museum’s Station Chapel. We were proud of be hosting Normandy veteran Bernard Hainsworth from West Yorkshire, together with his family, as he was awarded Chevalier de Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest military award.
Bernard saw service during the invasion with the RAF Regiment in 5022 Field Squadron Airfield Construction Service. He landed on 7th June, and the force lost 5 vehicles during the landing. Their job was to get ahead of the advancing invasion force and construct temporary airfields for the allied advance through the Battle of France.
Some 18 members of Bernard’s family attended, watching with great pride as he was given the award by the French Consul to Yorkshire, Mr. Jeremy Burton and Lt. Col. Valin, French Air Force, to warm applause from the congregation.
Afterwards we gathered in the Museum memorial garden with visitors and members of the Museum volunteer team for a final, short ceremony to remember the significant debt we all owe to those who fought for the peace in Europe that we still enjoy today.