Remembering Biggin Hill

By | Category: Travel destinations

After two years’ work, the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum opened last week and the public had its first chance to look around this weekend.

At Biggin Hill during WWII. Image c. BHMM

Given that Biggin Hill will be forever linked to the Battle of Britain and WWII, it is surprising that no museum had been established there.

Why did it take some seventy years to elapse before the role the airfield played was formerly commemorated? The answer is that that that is not quite the whole story.

St George’s RAF Chapel of Remembrance which is on the same site, was built in 1951 to commemorate those who served during that vital period of our history. Yet even then, the commemoration seemed muted. I used to regularly drive up from Sevenoaks to Bromley, going past the various turn-offs to Biggin Hill and there was little signposting to tempt me to visit despite the fact that I had two uncles in the RAF during the war, one in bombers and the other as a Lancaster pilot.

As a tourist attraction, the promotion of the airfield was muted even after the RAF had moved out.

Yet every one of my age knew of Biggin Hill. It was linked in our minds with other RAF achievements like the Dambusters. If, in the school playground, we played fighters, Biggin Hill was always where we were based rather than other airfields. The name alone conjured up our heroes despite the fact that people like Guy Gibson, Douglas Bader, Leonard Cheshire, Johnnie Johnson and Robert Stanford-Tuck had little or no contact with the base.

Even the entry in Wikipedia is muted about the exploits of those based at Biggin Hill

The new museum, whilst chronicling the exploits of all who served there, is particularly poignant in what it holds like letters, ticket stubs, photos and the like. Indeed the small items are more indicative of how the flyers and others based there spent their time which, to me at least, tells a story that is more appealing. It makes the people seem human rather than the heroes we placed on pedestals.

The museum work isn’t completed. More monetary donations are needed to complete the next stage of work and more “everyday” items are always welcome.

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