RAF heritage items fly back in to old station headquaretrs

Two very special historical RAF artefacts landed home last week after an absence of more than three decades.

Return of the boards: from left, Christine Wyld, Senior Coordinator His Church, Cormac Taylor and Sam Teague from the His Church Buildings Restoration Team and Phil Panton, Director, Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre.

When RAF Binbrook was decommissioned in 1988, everything from the Lightnings to the lamps were removed.

In charge of the disposal was the last serving noncommissioned officer at RAF Binbrook, Sgt Les Bradbury, who, along with his team, cleared the site.

As fortune would have it, one January morning in 1989 Les walked over from his office to check how progress was going with the stripping out of station headquarters building – and he saved two important pieces of history.

Station Commanders board

The ‘Station Commanders’ and ‘Flying Units’ boards, which display the names of the 29 distinguished station commanders and 20 flying units stationed at RAF Binbrook, had been on display at station headquarters from 1940 to 1988.

Les said: “Two lads were about to put the first board into the skip!

“I ordered that they stop immediately and took charge of the momentous boards; I was determined that they should be preserved and not go to landfill.”

Later that day, Fred Panton, from the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby, was due to collect some furniture from RAF Binbrook’s station headquarters.

Flying Units board

Brothers Fred and Harold Panton had established the Heritage Centre in 1987, as a commemoration to their brother Christopher, who was killed on the Nuremburg raid in March 1944.

The centre is now widely seen as a living memorial to the 55,500 men of Bomber Command who lost their lives during WW2.

Les knew the boards would be well looked after by the Panton Brothers and would be a fitting artefact at the heritage centre, especially because 617 Squadron was stationed at RAF Binbrook from April 1946 until December 1955.

There the boards remained, on display in the heritage centre for more than 20 years.

However, recently Les got back in touch with Fred’s son Phillip and grandson Andrew with some exciting news.

After years of neglect and deterioration, the station headquarters at the former RAF Binbrook site, now Brookenby Park, had been acquired in 2020 for use by international aid charity His Church and was in the process of being fully restored.

Having seen His Church make great strides forward in this renovation work, Les felt passionately that the two boards should come home and be hung once more at the historic Station Headquarters Building.

Phillip and Andrew were delighted to hear about the restoration work and wholeheartedly agreed the boards should return home.

Phillip delivered the boards and presented them to His Church.

He said:“It’s a privilege to bring these pieces of history home; they are now back where they belong.”

No one was more pleased than their original rescuer Les Bradbury to witness the return.

He said: “I feel so grateful to have been able to rescue these prestigious boards and to know they will be displayed in a fitting manner back where they hung for decades.

“It is very emotional and brings back many happy memories.”

A spokesman for His Church, which has distributed more than 4.5 million meals to vulnerable people in the UK since the first lockdown over a year ago, said: “More announcements will follow as the station headquarters, and other buildings acquired for our use on site, will be fully restored.”

“There are exciting plans for their use.”

Photo 2. The Station Commanders Board

Photo 3. The Flying Units Board

Photo 4. Sgt. (Retired) Les Bradbury at RAF Binbrook in 1989

If you would like any further information please contact Richard Humphrey, Operations Director, His Church on 07799 472894 or email [email protected]