RESTORATION work has begun on a project that will to bring to life part of a secret wartime airbase which has stood derelict for decades.
The National Trust has already restored a section of the former RAF Defford Second World War hospital, near Pershore, as its visitor centre and now thanks to £87,500 of funding from waste management contractor Severn Waste Services, work is starting to turn another area of the complex into a museum dedicated to RAF Defford.
“We’re all really excited that this restoration work has begun,” said Dr Dennis Williams, a member of Defford Airfield Heritage Group and the newly appointed curator of the museum. “Although the National Trust has restored some of the wartime buildings that were once part of the RAF Defford, there are many still to be saved. The decontamination annexe, which was part of the hospital, was in a really poor state so we’re thrilled that work has started to save it.”
During the Second World War and into the Cold War which followed, the RAF Defford airbase, built in some of the grounds of Croome Court, was one of the most secret places in the country. War-winning radar inventions were developed, tested and installed in aircraft at RAF Defford and it’s hoped the Museum will tell the story of the airfield, the development of radar and of the 2,000 people that worked there.”
Most of the wartime buildings were demolished and cleared from the area after the base closed in 1957, but a group of six RAF buildings survive with the National Trust having restored two of these with care and meticulous historical detail. The restoration of the decontamination annexe, built in the 1940s to provide support in case of chemical attack, has been made possible thanks to Severn Waste through the Landfill Community Fund. This is providing £87,500 towards the total cost of £135,000 building works.
“We are delighted to have the generous support of Severn Waste for this project towards this fascinating project.” said Michael Forster-Smith, Croome’s property manager. “The building shell will be completed first and then we hope to work with DAHG to secure further funding to turn the repaired building into a museum dedicated to RAF Defford’s important history. There is a real appetite from our visitors to know more about the airbase so we’re really keen to develop the museum.”
Ian Barber, marketing director of Severn Waste Services, which has its headquarters in Evesham, added, “This is a unique project, unlike anything else we have been asked to support through the Landfill Communities Fund. We are very pleased to be able to help tell the story of RAF Defford, and that this crucial piece of local history with national importance will be preserved for future generations.”
In Saturday's Worcester News Mike Pryce interviews 93-years-old Albert Shorrock, who served at RAF Defford during the Second World War and describes his fascinating and sometimes harrowing work.