29. May, 2021

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SATURDAY 29-05-21

We were in bed soon after 21:30 last night as we were very tired. I suppose the fact that we've not done anything like this for eight months, and over the past fifteen months since the first lockdown, not very much at all, so I suppose we'll have to build up our stamina as we make our way around in the coming weeks.

Considering we were in a pub car park we had a very peaceful night's sleep, well peaceful that is, until about 04:30 when all the local pigeons woke up and began cooing and bonking up on the roof above us. Never mind those sounds were easier on the ear than mad barking dogs.

Today we were off to the Yorkshire Air Museum, located at Elvington airfield (GPS: N53.926810 W0.964333), which was only about five miles down the road. The gates opened at 10:00 which meant we didn't have to rush about before arriving at about 09:45. I never realised they had such a museum here until I picked up a leaflet about it the last time we were up this way which was several years ago.

The helpful car parking staff directed us to a spot round the back of the museum which was ideal for us as we could pop back for lunch or rest between tours.

So little about Elvington airfield then:

RAF Elvington was home to 77 Squadron RAF Bomber Command, who operated from here from October 1942 to April 1944. However, it also had some continental visitors during the war. On 16th May 1944, the base become home to two French Squadrons called 346 'Guyenne' and 347 'Tunisie'. Elvington was now the only station in Britain to be operated by another nationality. The French airmen arriving from North Africa were the remnants of the French Air Force, who were desperate to free their nation from the German invaders. The French contingent went on to fly 2,700 sorties deep into Nazi territory and both squadrons lost 15 aircraft each. RAF Elvington became quite literally a French enclave, a foreign territory on Yorkshire soil which the locals in York called 'La Petite France ' and the only one of its kind in the United Kingdom.

Around 2,300 Frenchmen arrived including translators and mechanics as well as pilots. Many of the original aircrews were escapees, the remnants of the French Air Force Bomber Squadrons who had fled France across the Mediterranean to Algeria in 1940. Here they had joined forces with the Allies, undertook training and proved their spirit during 1943 in attacking Rommel’s retreating Afrika Korps.

During their tour of duty at Elvington the French crews flew Halifax heavy bombers.