New Biggin Hill Memorial Museum honours ‘the Few’
PUBLISHED: 13:39 28 February 2019
Following a 16-month construction project, the new museum has opened its doors to visitors, offering them the chance to experience the inspirational history of Britain’s most famous airfield
Following a 16-month construction project, the new Biggin Hill Memorial Museum has opened its doors to visitors, offering them the chance to experience the inspirational history of Britain’s most famous airfield.
The museum tells the story of Biggin Hill through the experiences of the people who served and lived there. It also secures the future of the Grade II-listed
St George’s RAF Chapel of Remembrance, the moving memorial to the 454 pilots killed flying from RAF Biggin Hill during the Second World War, built in 1951 at the behest of Sir Winston Churchill.
First established in 1917 as a testing ground for pioneering developments in flight, it is RAF Biggin Hill’s role in the Battle of Britain that defines its history. Part of a chain of airfields that protected the capital, Churchill described RAF Biggin Hill as ‘the strongest link’.
The inspirational experiences of ‘the Few’, who risked their lives in defence of the nation, and ‘the Many’ who supported them on the ground are revealed via a wealth of newly discovered archives and collections. From the fighter pilots facing the realities of aerial combat to children scavenging souvenirs from the battles overhead, the story told by the museum is above all about the people who served, worked and lived there.
More than 80 exhibits, many donated by the public, are included in the interactive, multi-media display. The museum is split into ‘themes’ – Early Years, Station Life, Community Life and Remembering.
Audio guide commentary is led by historian Dan Snow, who is joined by the voices of veterans including the late Geoffrey Wellum (the youngest Spitfire pilot to fly in the Battle of Britain at just 19 years of age) and Tom Neil.
A visit to the Museum climaxes in thought-provoking displays on combat, bravery, fear and loss.
Building and conservation work started in September 2017, following a National Lottery funding award of £2m from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Other funds included a £2m from Central Government along with grants from Bromley Council and other fundraising, bhmm.org.uk.