Many families all over the UK may have a piece of RAF memorabilia, or even several pieces, among a family member’s personal effects. A recent restoration project has seen calls for members of the public to donate Second World War memorabilia, particularly anything which pertains to RAF Northolt, to a memorial, igniting the debate about the point where personal and family history becomes public and national history.
The project, undertaken entirely by volunteers, will restore the ‘ops room’ or Operation Room at the historic RAF Northolt to the way it might have looked during the Battle of Britain. The volunteers have pledged to use the original antique materials and techniques as much as possible during the refurbishment, which is slated to take several months to a year. The first step has been for volunteers to urge members of the public to bring in RAF memorabilia and ‘mystery objects’ which may be gathering dust in a grandparent’s attic or shut up in a wardrobe. The call goes out alongside a more general effort to source all-original items of furniture, stationery, machinery and décor to stock the ops room, which will be located in the West End Road Airfield.
The restoration is in preparation for the centenary of the historic RAF Norholt, which will take place in 2015, and commemorates the years when Northolt was a sector air-field, operated from the RAF’s infamous Uxbridge Bunker. During the Battle of Britain, the RAF played a key role in defending our shores from German invasion, a solemn and proud moment in Britain’s history which deserves to be commemorated whole-heartedly by the whole community. The centenary is especially significant to those in the local area, whose family history may well include one of the brave airmen flying fighter aircraft out over the North Sea and English Channel to fend off German raiders.
The famous ‘ops room’
The restoration will include a museum made up of those artifacts donated by members of the public, who can expect to have their historic items returned when the exhibition closes. Its central exhibit is though to be the infamous ‘Ops desk’, which will include maps showing aircraft movements at the time, a dashboard with viewing dais and authentic RAF fixtures and fittings, including everything from fire buckets to light switches, all bought from military memorabilia collectors or rescued from dismantled RAF stations. The collection already includes a wide range of WWII memorabilia, including gas masks, medals, fragments of bombs, missiles and shrapnel, uniform and tin hats and even items of decommissioned weaponry, such as rifles and even machine guns.
Locals are encouraged to search their family homes for any lost or forgotten items of RAF memorabilia, and ask senior family members to do the same. It is estimated that every other household in Britain retains a piece of military memorabilia from a friend or family member. While some are treasured and displayed as items of great personal historical significance, others are not discovered until a house move or a death in the family, and their stories may be forgotten if generations are allowed to pass before they are next unearthed.
The author is a home blogger with a passion for collectibles, who writes regularly about car boots, antiques and online finds. She visits www.rafmuseumshop.com to research anything to do with military or RAF memorabilia.