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Warndon Library’s Remember RAF100 project culminates in commemorations and an exhibition

James Robertson at Warndon Library

 

The following is written by James Robertson at Warndon Library who took part in our Remember RAF100 projectWould you like to contribute your story about working on one of our projects? We would love to hear from you. Read more case studies here and email contact@big-ideas.org for more information. Read about our current projects here.

 

In April 2018, Warndon Library began its Remember RAF100 project, collaborating with the 13th Worcester Scouts, and with the support of Big Ideas and the Worcestershire World War 100 Project.

This public engagement project aimed to identify, research and tell the stories of local Worcester men buried in Astwood Cemetery who served and died as members of the Royal Air Force in the First World War.

Members of 13th Worcester Scouts beginning their research into the lives of Royal Air Force casualties at Warndon Library and the Fairfield Centre. Image © & courtesy of James Robertson

Seven such men were discovered, along with several who served in the Second World War plus two others from the Cold War period, and over the course of three months – including several trips to Warndon Library and a field trip to Astwood Cemetery itself – the Remember RAF100 project culminated in two special events at the beginning of July.

On the 7 July, members of the 13th Worcester Scouts and Warndon Library staff visited the RAF Museum at Cosford to remember the lives of the 13 men researched during the project. There was also the opportunity to explore the aircraft and 100 years of history of the RAF, with all of the Scouts achieving their Air Researcher badge during the trip.

During the evening of Monday 9 July, a further poignant commemoration was held at Astwood Cemetery, 100 years to the day after the death of Air Mechanic 2nd Class George Arthur Chance, who was fatally wounded in a tragic accident whilst servicing one of his No.109 Squadron aircraft at Lake Down aerodrome in Wiltshire in 1918.

Commemoration at the Cross of Sacrifice,
Astwood Cemetery, Worcester, Monday, 9th July. Image © & courtesy of James Robertson.

Specially commissioned poems entitled The RAF and Remembrance were read aloud by members of the 13th Worcester Scouts at the Cross of Sacrifice, before the names of all 13 airmen and officers were recited and a minute’s silence was observed.

Parents and supporters were then invited to join the Scouts, led by Scout Leader Wendy Phelps and James Robertson of Warndon Library, to tour the RAF war graves located at various points around Astwood Cemetery, before returning to the Fairfield Centre and Warndon Library for a short reception and an opportunity to view the Remember RAF100 exhibition on display. The Remember RAF100 project exhibition was on display at the Fairfield Centre and Warndon Library throughout July and August.

 

Touring the RAF war graves in Astwood Cemetery, Monday, 9th July. Image © & courtesy of James Robertson.

The staff at Warndon Library would like to thank Wendy Phelps and the 13th Worcester Scouts for their incredible efforts of research during the Remember RAF100 project, and also acknowledge the support of Big Ideas, whose resources and funding were invaluable, and the Worcestershire World War 100 project for their help in promoting the project to a wider public audience.

From a personal point of view, I wanted to be involved in the Remember RAF100 project because I had an ancestor who served in the Royal Air Force during 1918 as an observer/gunner in France with 22 Squadron. John Howard Umney shot down 12 enemy aircraft in just 2 months (May/June 1918) whilst flying in the back seat of a Bristol Fighter and was later awarded the Military Cross – I wanted to share his story with others. But I also wanted to engage with young people in the area around Warndon Library where I work, to encourage them to remember and commemorate members of their local community who served in the RAF during the First World War, and are buried in nearby Astwood Cemetery.

“Passing on my thoughts and beliefs on the importance of remembrance and commemoration to the next generation, including the 13th Worcester Scouts with whom we worked, is something I consider to be vital.”

Warndon Library display

I have been involved in two First World War projects with Big Ideas during the last 12 months, Passchendaele at Home and Remember RAF100, and both have been extremely rewarding experiences. Encouraging members of the Warndon community, both young and old, to research and tell the stories of local people buried nearby who served during the First World War, and to commemorate their lives in simple, but poignant ways, was both humbling and a privilege.

I would encourage anyone, whether they have an interest in the First World War or not, to get involved in any future projects with Big Ideas and engage with people of all ages in their local community. It will be a most rewarding experience.

 


 

Remember RAF100 is a First World War commemoration programme which marks the formation of the RAF 100 years ago (on 1 April 1918) as well as commemorating the many air service personnel who lost their lives during the First World War. With the project you can discover their stories, remember their contribution, and share your findings with your community.

Would you like to contribute your story about working on one of our projects? We would love to hear from you. Read more case studies here and email contact@big-ideas.org for more information. Read about our current projects here.

 

 

Posted 22 August 2018