PICTURES: New battle ahead to honour Biggin Hill heroes
PUBLISHED: 06:00 26 September 2013
Remembered once a year, historians and aviation experts have fought to see a permanent tribute to The Few in the form of a heritage centre.
The battle has raged for 30 years to establish a centre to mark the historic site, with the proposed spot next to Biggin Hill Airport and close to the RAF Chapel, where earlier this month the Battle of Britain anniversary was commemorated.
The Biggin Hill Battle of Britain Supporters’ Club (BoBSC) have championed the scheme since 2006, and last year it looked as though a state-of-the-art £5million centre may be a possibility.
However, over the past 12 months it became evident that the finances, despite backing from Bromley Council, would be too much of a hurdle.
Peter Osborne, of the BoBSC, has been campaigning for the heritage centre for more than two decades, and says the struggle has left him war-weary.
“It’s been a hard slog”, he said. “When we really thought we were in with a chance things changed again and we ended up with this mega site that was never going to work.”
In the summer of 1940, Biggin Hill provided a base for men flying to meet the Luftwaffe mid-air -– potentially saving the lives of millions of British citizens.
As a result, the name of what has today become an airport is synonymous across the globe with war-time bravery and spirit.
Peter added: “You go anywhere in the world and say you come from Bromley and you will get blank looks from everyone. But people, especially among the aviation community, know Biggin Hill in Canada, South Africa and even Austrlia. It really is the most famous air station in the world.”
Along with the BoBSC, Peter now believes a new project costing just under £1million could well be viable and is hoping to have a planning application in front of Bromley Council before the end of the year.
A shortlist of two architects have been whittled down and are now drawing up their final plans before the group select their favourite.
Unlike the unrealistic £5 million scheme, this streamlined centre will do without simulators and gadgets, instead focusing on the wider history of Biggin Hill – though there might be an appearance from a classic fighter plane.
“We want to tell the story of loads of events at Biggin Hill, not just the Battle of Britain”, says Peter.
“The goal is to have people coming out of there thinking ‘well I never knew that’.”
Developments for the heritage centre seem to have finally picked up pace, and the BoBSC are now looking for investors and generous contributions to see this tribute to The Few take flight.
To find out more about the project, visit bhbobsc.org.uk.