New heritage centre opens at airfield

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SOUTH West Airfields Heritage Trust has recently opened a new heritage centre at Dunkeswell Airfield, near Honiton.

The centre, located on the perimeter entry road to the airfield and adjacent to the war memorial, contains an extensive collection of over 350 photographs, reproduction uniforms, models, artefacts and film showing life on the base, including rare photographs of the construction and sinking of U-boats, together with narratives that describe particular actions and attacks.

The centre was officially opened on Sunday, September 25th by the honorary president of the trust and one of the founding trustees, Claude Caple, was accompanied by a flypast of vintage aircraft and the attendance of military vehicles from the Devon branch of the Military Vehicle Trust and is the culmination of a project that was devised nearly 15 years ago.

Brian Lane-Smith, chairman of the board of trustees, said “Today is something really special for our trust.

“We have, for some time, wanted to create a heritage centre that would tell the story of what took place at the airfield during the Second World War and I think the trust can be proud of what has been achieved.

“Certainly we have been overwhelmed by the initial response to what we have created.”

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Commenting on the achievement, Claude Caple said: “I want to thank Nick Jones and the local SC Group of companies and Brendon Proctor of Air Westward, who have supported the project; without them and our volunteers, we could not have achieved our aim.

“I am so pleased we have managed to create what will be a permanent memorial to the men and women who served here and to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

RAF Dunkeswell was constructed by George Wimpey & Co from early 1942 and was handed over to the RAF on June 26th 1943.

Although an RAF base, Dunkeswell was first occupied by the American 479th AAF Anti-Submarine Group who had been transferred from Iceland, to support 19 Group RAF Coastal Command in their fight against the U-Boat, hence the reason the Americans came to Devon.

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Honiton, Ottery St Mary, Chard & Ilminster Reporter | After studying for his NCTJ in Bournemouth, Peter started with the paper in June 2015 on a freelance basis, now permanently based in East Devon covering community and council news.

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