Veterans preview International Bomber Command Centre

veterans of Operation Manna in conversation

Excluding a couple of days ago, my last visit to International Bomber Command Centre last summer, muddy approach, portakabins, diggers, trucks, shell of a building, hard hat, steel-tipped boots, hi-vis vests for access.

Today, a loose gravel approach to the finished building.

Not yet officially open, today was to give veterans of WWII Bomber Command a glimpse.

Inside, an open plan reception.

As pass through the entrance, a bust of Roy Chadwick, the man who designed the Avro Lancaster, the four-engine heavy bomber on which the RAF relied for its bombing raids.

Roy Chadwick also designed the Vulcan, a V-bomber powered by jet engines.

An auditorium houses a large screen, static and interactive displays, a timeline showing a bombing raid and a separate screen with a four part depiction of all aspects of aerial warfare.

Bombing started with bombs being dropped from airships. It was thought that air warfare would lead to fewer casualties, fewer causalities than trench warfare.

At the end of the First World War, Germany was in ruins, the victors exacted a very heavy price, even though warned by Keynes not to.

The result was the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Second World War.

Have no lessons been learnt? Is 2008 our 1929? The Wall Street Crash led to the Great Depression, rise of Fascism across Europe, the Second World War. Banking crisis in 2008, economic crisis, geo-political crisis, the economy has not recovered, a rise of Fascism across Europe, Fascist governments in Poland, Hungary and now Spain and Austria, Angela Merkel fears holding an election for fear Fascists will gain more seats, Greece occupied by the EU, the country destroyed to serve as a punishment for the Greeks daring to challenge the EU, banks used instead of tanks. UK threatened with punishment for leaving to serve as a warning to others, even though it will harm Europe and turn southern Europe into a wasteland.

Guernica — Pablo Picasso

The bombing of Guernica by Franco and Spanish Fascists woke the world to total destruction of a city.

At first Britain was poorly prepared for war, war production was ramped up, bombing raids were not accurate, change targets to cities, would hit something, terrorise and demoralise the civilian population.

Between Dunkirk and D-Day, Bomber Command was the only way to bring the war to the enemy.

Around the perimeter of the auditorium a timeline of a bombing raid.

Static displays of playing cards, flying boots, a lamp.

The playing cards, on each card, hand written account of a bombing raid.

Interactive with actors playing the part recounting first hand accounts. These narrations collected from first hand accounts. A race against time to collect these stories, as already a third of those who contributed are sadly no longer with us.

Dominating the room a large display.

On the large screen, bombing targets lit up. At first I thought, not many, that was until I noticed a scrolling bar. What was being shown was nightly raids, night by night.

A warning, a film was to be shown, almost like warning of an air raid.

Was this a warning to evacuate the room? Maybe.

Too loud.

Then I could see why so loud, when an Avro Lancaster took off, then the bombs dropped, then a building on fire, then footage from the air of the destroyed buildings, presumably taken by the Germans, then the lost people wandering the streets.

Quite an emotive experience watching the screen.

Upstairs, on the first floor, a gallery with more display panels.

Themes covered the impact on civilians, war production in the factories, French Resistance.

And not forgetting Knight of the Skies, one of the Lincoln Knights who now keeps watch.

A gathering of eighty-nine veterans of Bomber Command, their guests, staff and volunteers, crew of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

I regret not chatting with the veterans, as this will probably be the last time they will all be gathered together. They included the last survivor of the Dambusters Raid, a prisoner of war from Stalag 13.

A good spread of food laid on, but many missed out. This was not due to failure of the catering. It was unfortunate that a lot of greedy people, piled their plates high, then left uneaten. More food was served later, no one went hungry.

The dining room was packed. When open, will be serving a special blend of coffee for the centre, but not today as it would have taken too long to serve coffee from an espresso machine. It was though a pity the coffee beans were not on sale, as will be when the Centre opens to the public, as would probably have sold out. There will also be a special blend of tea. Both supplied by Stokes.

The site is in two parts. The Chadwick Building and the Memorial Spire surrounded by concentric rusting steel panels into which have been cut the names of those who died.

The path connecting the two, has stone tablets with more details of some who died.

Either side of the path, trees have been planted to represent each of the airfields. A plaque by each tree records the squadrons based there and the number who died.

The site looks across the Witham Valley to Lincoln Cathedral the other side.

Why Lincoln? Lincolnshire was known as Bomber County.

The Centre is not only a visitor centre, it will also be a research centre with archive material.

The Centre tells the story from all sides, the crew on the ground, the aircrew, and the Germans who were bombed.

What is the point some may say.

Syria. Look what Assad has done to Syria, bombed-out buildings, the only way he can retain control of Syria is to kill his own people, aided and abetted by Vladimir Putin.

Yemen. Corrupt House of Saud carrying out genocide in Yemen, weapons supplied courtesy of British arms companies.

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