Second World War Bomber Command commemorated at new centre

By Rosemary Collins, 19 April 2018 - 1:31pm

The IBCC celebrates the service and sacrifice of pilots and support staff of Royal Air Force Bomber Command

Veteran Frederick Hill at the opening of the International Bomber Command Centre (Credit: Phil Crow)

The first centre to commemorate those involved with or affected by Bomber Command during the Second World War has opened in Lincoln.

The International Bomber Command Centre (IBCC) was formally opened on 12 April by more 
than 300 veterans, the youngest of whom was 93.

They included representatives from aircrew, ground crew, the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, the Air Transport Auxiliary, Resistance workers and recipients of the humanitarian food-aid mission, Operation Manna.

The IBCC includes the Spire, which at 102 feet is the UK’s tallest war memorial, surrounded by a Wall of Names commemorating the 57,861 young men and women who died while serving or supporting Bomber Command in the Second World War.

Its museum, the Chadwick Centre, uses state-of-the-art technology and interactive displays to tell the story of Bomber Command, as well as those who suffered as a result of the bombing campaigns and those whose survival was guaranteed by humanitarian operations, in an ‘Orchestra of Voices’.

The site also has two peace gardens set across 10 acres of landscaped grounds.

Those who died are listed in a free searchable online database on the IBCC’s website.

It took more than 100 volunteers over four years to compile the database, which holds over 3.2 million pieces of information, including the individual’s rank, service number, decorations, date of death, age at death, squadron number, and aircraft name and serial number.

The IBCC team, in partnership with the University of Lincoln, is also creating a digital archive containing more than 900 oral history interviews with veterans and over 190,000 documents, photos, letters and other personal items, which will be available later this year.

Nicky Barr, IBCC chief executive, said: “The veterans and their memories, coupled with their struggle for recognition, have always been at the heart of this project.

"From the outset we have had fantastic support from all sectors of the veteran community, and it is now our chance to thank them publicly and formally.”

The opening ceremony was compered by broadcaster John Sergeant and included speeches, a blessing from the Bishop of Lincoln, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, bands, choirs, drama pieces, the film Bomber Boys and a series of flypasts from heritage aircraft and modern jets representing squadrons that were part of Bomber Command.

It was followed by an evening concert presented by Carol Vorderman.

In total, more than a million men and women from 62 countries served and supported Bomber Command.

Over 125,000 volunteered to serve as aircrew, of whom only 30 per cent reached the end of the war without being killed, injured or taken prisoner.

Bomber Command suffered the highest losses of any unit, and the average age of death was just 23.

Members of No. 106 Squadron, March 1943 (Credit: IWM via Getty Images)

Lincolnshire, which earned the title of ‘Bomber County’ during the war, was the headquarters of both 
1 and 5 Groups and a third of all of the UK’s stations were based in the county.

The IBCC is situated on Canwick Hill, overlooking Lincoln Cathedral, which provided a landmark for pilots.

The Lincolnshire Bomber Command Memorial Trust formally launched the IBCC project in 
May 2013.

The IBCC has received funding from Biffa Award, Community Covenant, the Foyle Foundation, Garfield Weston, the Heritage Lottery Fund, LIBOR, North Kesteven District Council, Veolia Environmental Trust and WREN FCC Environment, and works with organisations in Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland and South Africa.

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