Bomber Command Heritage calls on public to help create heritage centre at RAF Bicester

By Culture24 Reporter | 11 October 2012
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A photo of the gates to a rural RAF base
The former main gates to RAF Bicester, which could become a major new heritage centre© Bomber Command Heritage
The remains of RAF Bicester, in Oxfordshire, is home to 19 listed buildings, 16 Scheduled Monuments, four large flight sheds, an aerodrome used in both world wars and the departure site of the Halifax four-engine Heavy Bomber. The airfield has been described in no uncertain terms by English Heritage as “the best preserved bomber airfield” in the country.

A black and white photo of a large plane on a runway during the war
The Halifax bomber at RAF Bicester© Bomber Command Heritage
The technical grounds were “mothballed” during the 1980s, and the RAF left in 2004, but a volunteer group is calling for support to restore public access to the land and turn it into a heritage and education centre remembering 20th century conflicts and the reasons and lessons behind them.

“Ongoing world events, the resulting advances in technology and the social impact of Bomber Command means the subject remains highly relevant in the 21st century,” says Dean Overton, the chairman overseeing the ambitious plan with an estimated £35 million liability to take on.

“We want to advance the public’s knowledge and understanding of all aspects of RAF Bomber Command and the British and Commonwealth sacrifice made during World War Two, including the civilian story.”

The group says the base, which has been put up for sale by the Ministry of Defence, has survived “by chance” after being “ left to rot”. They envisage a 20-year restoration programme, backed by “multiple income streams” for a living history-style attraction.

A black and white photo of a wartime propeller aeroplane
The site was taken over by the RAF in 1917© Bomber Command Heritage
The infrastructure, however dilapidated, is impressive: hangers, a control tower, pillboxes and one of the best remaining examples of an Operational Training Unit still stand, with 18 of the buildings on the Heritage at Risk register.

The airflield at Bicester was taken over by the Royal Flying Corps in 1917, and became home to various training operations including the Bomber Command Training Group during World War II. Crews initially based at Bicester were awarded the first Victoria Crosses for aircrew during the 1939-45 conflict.

A nature and memorial trail is planned in their honour, as well as outdoor spaces for public and community use.

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