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Council unveils brand new Battle of Britain Bunker Exhibition and Visitor Centre as new heritage destination for London

New release: 19/3/18 - Hillingdon Council unveiled a brand new Battle of Britain Exhibition and Visitor Centre, Uxbridge, at a civic ceremony on Friday 16 March ahead of the public opening on 30 March 2018.

The Leader of the Council, Cllr Ray Puddifoot MBE, officially unveiled the state-of-the-art visitor centre in the presence of Boris Johnson, MP for Uxbridge & South Ruislip, Cllr Carol Melvin, Mayor of Hillingdon and distinguished guests, including Second World War veterans.

The Battle of Britain Bunker, and those who staffed it, played a crucial role in the air defence of the United Kingdom throughout the Second World War and the new visitor centre tells the story for the first time through an interactive exhibition. 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 has a full size replica of the original plotting table map as part of a 360 degree touch screen experience. 

Hillingdon Council became custodians of the Battle of Britain Bunker in 2016, taking over responsibility from the Ministry of Defence. The council secured £1 million pounds in government funding to carry out essential repairs to the bunker.

interactive plotting table400 The bunker museum became a key part of the council's investment plans, which focus on its people, environment and heritage. These plans have culminated in freezing council tax for a tenth successive year, additional investment and funding in schools, libraries, green spaces, recycling and roads in Hillingdon and, with the new Exhibition and Visitor Centre, a £6 million pound investment in this important part of the borough's heritage.

Cllr 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.

"To ensure that the bunker could both be kept open and its historic significance remembered, understood and enjoyed for generations to come, we provided funding of £6 million to build this state-of-the art Exhibition and Visitors' Centre.

"It is an amazing building in both design and content and I would like to thank council staff and all of those involved in the design, construction and fitting out of this tribute to what was, undoubtedly, one of this nation's finest hours.

"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 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."

Boris Johnson MP Uxbridge and South Ruislip meets the WAAFs that served at the new visitor centre Boris Johnson, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip said: "This is an absolute triumph for Hillingdon council. I am just bowled over by the beautiful job they have done and it far exceeds my expectations. It's a new facility for the borough and a great new visitor destination for London."

For more information on the Battle of Britain Bunker Exhibition and Visitor Centre: www.hillingdon.gov.uk/bunker

ENDS

 

Notes to Editors

  • For more information, interview requests and filming opportunities, please contact: acockerton@hillingdon.gov.uk

  •  The site is located one mile from Uxbridge Tube station on Wren Avenue, UB9 OBE.

  • Hillingdon Council acquired the Bunker and its auxiliary buildings from the Ministry of Defence in 2016. Construction of the centre began in summer 2016 and was handed over to HIllingdon Council from the contractor in November 2017.

  • The centre is open to the public every day excluding Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day from 10am to 4pm. There are five daily tours of the historic bunker and these can be booked on arrival. Hillingdon residents, current and ex-military,  under 16s: free of charge. Over 65s: £5 to visit both. Over 16s: £7 to visit both.

  • The site is available for private and corporate hire which includes meeting rooms, a 95-seat lecture theatre with cinema facilities, plus additional facilities for schools and research.

  •  The building is 2,000 square metres in size in total, set across two levels. The main exhibition hall is 519 square metres.

  • The exhibition includes the medals and personal effects donated by the family of Wg Cdr Ronald Kellett who served locally at RAF Northolt as commander of the Polish No. 303 Squadron.

  • "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed, by so many to so few." Prime Minister Winston Churchill first uttered these words on leaving the bunker after watching the RAF at work. The bunker was the HQ for No.11 (Fighter) Group, which co-ordinated the air defence for London and south east England.

  • Cllr Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council added: "Hillingdon has one of the largest school building programmes in London, the safest roads in London due to record investment in resurfacing, more green flag awards for its parks and open spaces than any other UK local authority for five consecutive years and has rebuilt or refurbished every one of its 17 libraries. We have also frozen Council Tax for 10 consecutive years and still managed to build record levels of financial reserves and we are proud to be in a position to protect and promote this amazing part of our national heritage by securing the future of the Bunker and enabling future generations to learn of its importance in our history through visiting the Exhibition Centre and the Bunker "

 

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Article utilities:  Bookmark and Share Print Print this page Last updated: 21 Nov 2018 at 09:11