New heritage destination for London: Hillingdon Council inaugurates brand new Britain Bunker Exhibit
Hillingdon Council unveiled the new Battle of Britain Exhibition and Visitor Centre in Uxbridge at a civic ceremony on Friday 16 March ahead of the public opening on 30 March 2018.
The leader of the Council, Ray Puddifoot, officially inaugurated the brand new Battle of Britain exhibition and visitor centre in the presence of Boris Johnson, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, the Mayor of Hillingdon and notable guests including Second World War veterans.
The Battle of Britain Bunker is an underground operations room at RAF Uxbridge, formerly used by No. 11 Group Fighter Command during the Second World War. Fighter aircraft operations were controlled from there throughout the War but most notably during the Battle of Britain on D-Day.
Run by Hillingdon Council, the construction of the new visitor centre above ground and the £1 million restoration for the bunker began in 2016. It will open to the public on Good Friday 30 March, to coincide with the RAF’s 100th anniversary.
The new displays include full size replica aircraft, original artefacts, wartime footage and oral histories. For those who cannot take the tour down into the original bunker, the visitor centre also features a full-size replica of the original plotting table map as part of a 360-degree touch experience.
At the unveiling ceremony, Councillor Ray Puddifoot said: “Hillingdon Council is proud of the borough’s RAF heritage and we regard it as both an honour and a privilege to now be custodians of the Battle of Britain Bunker which was, a few years ago, in danger of closure.
"We should never forget that our brave British pilots fought alongside those from other nations - notably Poland, New Zealand, Canada and Czechoslovakia - and that their success, and indeed their lives, were often in the hands of the ground staff underground in the No. 11 Fighter Group Operations Room here on this site in Uxbridge - 85 percent of whom were women."
One of those women, Helen Mills, a 93-year-old bunker veteran, attended the ceremony and said: "This is a tremendous exhibition and it brings it all back. The war was not going well at the time when I left school, so I joined up. I had the necessary qualities of being quick-witted and having good diction. We had to learn on the job. Heaven help you if you missed a plot when they came in thick and fast!"
Daniel Stirland, Senior Curator, said: "The bunker played a crucial role in the air defence of the United Kingdom throughout the Second World War. It was so important both King George VI and Winston Churchill visited in 1940 during the Battle of Britain and were amazed by what they saw. Our new museum finally acknowledges the top secret work carried out at Uxbridge by the Royal Air Force."
For more information on the Battle of Britain Bunker Exhibition and Visitor Centre: www.hillingdon.gov.uk/bunker