Official opening of International Bomber Command Centre

To coincide with 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force today saw the official opening of International Bomber Command Centre.

Veterans of Bomber Command were invited from all over the world. Some like the Poles and other Europeans, had escaped with their lives from occupied Europe to then put their lives on the line to serve in Bomber Command to help defeat Nazi Germany and liberate Europe from German occupation.

Invited they came, from as far afield as Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Australian government met the expenses of their veterans who came. Three hundred veterans, the youngest 92 the oldest 100.

Military personnel too, from US, Canada and Australia milling around.

The surrounding roads were closed, causing a long diversion.

Parking in an adjacent field, even for the veterans. Those in wheelchairs somehow managing not to get stuck in the mud.

A guard of honour mounted by RAF personnel, all in dress uniform, bedecked with their medals.

Once in the marquee, reserved for veterans only, would you like sir tea or coffee, from an airman.

Wandering around, the site shrouded in mist, the trees on the site vanished in mist, not even possible to see the South Common, let alone Lincoln Cathedral the other side of the valley.

The site has special significance. It overlooks Lincoln, it overlooks Lincoln Cathedral. A spire that is the tallest war memorial in the country, the height the width of a Lancaster wing span. For the airmen who flew on a bombing raid, Lincoln Cathedral was the last sight of what they called home, on return if they made it back, the first sight they saw. Many did not make it back. Their names, over 57,000, their names are cut in the panels. They may not have made it back, but they live on in spirit, with their laser cut names. The average age of the aircrew, 23 years old.

Also on site the Chadwick Centre named after Sir Roy Chadwick who designed both the Lancaster and the Vulcan.

The Chadwich Centre houses an interactive museum, in conjunction with Lincoln University, a digital archive, which is hoped to go on-line in the summer.

Between the Chadwick Centre and the Memorial Spire, a path alongside are tablets with a dedications to those who lost their lives.

All too soon, everyone was herded out of the warmth of the marquee, where lunch was to be served later, out into the misty cold, for the opening ceremony.

And cold it was. Survival blankets had to be handed out to keep people warm.

An address by someone from the Lottery, who provided some of the funding (the majority was donated by the public), Lord Howe defence minister in the Lords and Nicky Barr chief executive of IBCC whose hard work, plus her army of volunteers, has made everything possible.

There was to have been a Lancaster flypast, but to the disappointment of everyone, not possible.

No official bigwig, Royal Family or RAF Top Brass. Instead, which was a nice touch, the veterans cut the ribbon. A long ribbon unravelled across where the veterans were sat, scissors handed out, and the ribbon cut.

The Last Post, then everyone, no one sure what to do, headed back to warmth. The opening ceremony had not finished, there was more music, drama, but the cold was too much.

In the open reception area of the Chadwick Centre, on sale books, tea, coffee, craft beer.

At the entrance, complimentary copies of Lincolnshire Life featuring IBCC.

Back in the marquee lunch served for the veterans their guests had to make do with the various food stalls parked outside. A choice of burger, burger or burger, one stall had noodles, and another cakes.

The lunch, three sausages one assumes Lincolnshire sausages, served on a bed of potatoes, carrots and peas. The serving staff volunteers from a local college catering school.

BBC Look North excellent live coverage in the evening by Peter Levy and the Look North team, a pity about the crass comments from the weatherman which were uncalled for, and unfortunate cut short by five minutes by a party political broadcast.

One of life’s ironies, as the opening took place, high level meetings in London, the US and across Europe on whether or not to bomb Syria for its use of chemical weapons on civililians.

In the evening a concert.

On Saturday, world premier of the digitally remastered Dambusters.

Evening Thursday 24 May 2018, RAF 100 Centenary Concert in Lincoln Cathedral will also mark 75th Anniversary of the Dambusters Raid.

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