Fundraising mission begins for important WWII control tower

13:52 04 May 2012

The pilot of a B-17 buzzing the control tower after completing 25 successful missions

The pilot of a B-17 buzzing the control tower after completing 25 successful missions

Archant

A £250,000 fundraising camapign has been launched to restore a vital piece of WWII history that helped the crew of the iconic Memphis Belle strike into Nazi occupied Europe.

Campaign kicks off with 1940s weekender

THE mission to raise the cash to restore Bassingbourn’s rare Control Tower will kick off with a 1940s themed weekend.

The Tower Museum organised Somewhere in England event takes place over May 12-13 with some of the country’s finest 1940s entertainers pledging their support.

Among the stars will be Paul Casper - billed as the UK’s number one George Formby tribute - chanteuse Fiona Harrison and the Opus 17 Big Band.

Allied Forces living history groups will help bring the period to life joined by the machines that helped win the war.

The Highland Pipes & Drums band will also be there as will a large collection of WWII R/C aircraft.

There will also be a wide array of events and trade stalls with a licensed bar and food stalls to help the good cause.

Gates open at 10am on both days and tickets are £10 for adults, £7 pensioners and under 16s are free.

To find out more log on to the website www.towermuseum bassingbourn.co.uk

The control tower, on Bassingbourn Barracks, has been fully taken on by the Tower Museum Association from the Ministry of Defence and it wants to restore the building back to its wartime glory.

Servicemen from both sides of the Atlantic were based at the then RAF Bassingbourn and the museum stands as a monument to the brave men who gave up their lives fighting tyranny.

A statement from the museum’s directors said: “The Tower Museum stands testament to a time when the fate of the free world hung in the balance and stands as a memorial to the 2,200 men of the RAF and United States Army Air Force who were lost to the enemy flying from this airfield during WWII.”

It is a poignant year for the group to begin the restoration as a national memorial will be unveiled in memory of the 55,573 men of Bomber Command killed during the conflict, with many stationed at the base making the ultimate sacrifice.

A total of 180 men lost their lives when the Royal Air Force’s Operational Training Units were based there between 1938-42. Records show at the turn of 1941 one German fighter shot down 21 Wellington Bombers in the skies over Crow Country.

The United States Air Force were next to move in with the 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy) unaware of the horrendous losses they would endure.

By the end of the war the group had suffered the most losses of any group in the entire 8th Air Force.

But it was to the B17 group the famous Memphis Belle belonged and it was the first of its type to officially complete 25 daylight bombing missions over occupied Europe - when crews only had a survival rate of completing 11 missions.

It was at the base that Hollywood director William Wyler came in 1942 to film the combat documentary Memphis Belle, which is said to have done a great deal to convince the sceptical American public of the vital work carried out in the European Theatre of Operations.

This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the 8th United States Army Air Force to the UK and the arrival of the 91st Bomb Group to Bassingbourn.

Chairman of museum’s directors Chris Murphy said: “It is therefore fitting and timely that the Tower Museum embarks upon its mission to raise the funds required to restore the Control Tower at Bassingbourn, a memorial museum dedicated to both RAF Bomber Command and the 91st Bomb Group (Heavy) of the 8th USAAF.

“Success of the fundraising mission will ensure that the museum can continue to act as a centre of educational and historical importance for current and future generations, to learn of the price of freedom and what was done at places like Bassingbourn to ensure the freedom and liberty we enjoy today.”

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