2018 will mark 100 years of the Royal Air Force, and visitors to Staffordshire will have the opportunity to take part in some of the many commemorative events being staged across Britain during the year.
Home to the National Memorial Arboretum, near Lichfield, Staffordshire also offers itself as a perfect base for visiting RAF Museum Cosford, which is located just over the county boundary, in Shropshire.
The National Memorial Arboretum is located at the heart of the nation, in Staffordshire, with around 30,000 maturing trees and more than 300 significant memorials. It is the UK’s year-round centre of Remembrance and home to the nationally-important Armed Forces Memorial.
Amongst the memorials there, several commemorate the RAF in some way, including the magnificent Royal Air Forces Association Remembrance Garden. Opened by HRH The Princess Royal in September, 2009, it was the first national Remembrance Garden in memory of all those who have served in the RAF and Commonwealth air forces.
The inspiration for the garden comes from the RAF Association’s Dedication, the last line of which is “we will remember them”. The central feature of the 5-metres long garden is the RAF Association emblem – a magnificent stainless-steel eagle sitting on top of a globe. The eagle, named Winston, is made up of over 1,000 hand-forged feathers and is surrounded by a segmented RAF roundel separated into four quarters to depict the RAF Association at the heart of RAF welfare.
The Royal Flying Corps was the air arm of the British Army before and during the First World War, until it merged with the Royal Naval Air Service on 1 April 1918 to form the Royal Air Force.
Other RAF memorials at the National Memorial Arboretum include the Royal Air Force Halton Apprentices Memorial Garden; the Royal Air Force Regiment’s Memorial Garden; the Royal Air Force Wood; the blue brick plinth and memorial plaque of the Royal Air Force Cranwell Apprentices; the stone monolith of the Royal Air Force Boy Entrants; a memorial to RAF Locking; a bench and plinth in tribute to the Royal Air Force Servicing Commando and Tactical Supply Wing Association; a collection of silver birch trees planted in the shape of an eagle’s wing in honour of the Royal Air Force Wing; and a memorial to the Royal Air Force Police.
The world-famous centrepiece Armed Forces Memorial, meanwhile, commemorates the service men and women of the British Armed Forces who have been killed while on duty, died in operational theatre, or been targeted by terrorists since the end of the Second World War.
Elsewhere, the new, £15.7m Remembrance Centre at the National Memorial Arboretum was officially launched in March 2017, and is now expected to welcome some 500,000 visitors a year.
Entry to the Arboretum is free (£5 suggested contribution); and for £7.50 (adults) and £6 (children and concession), visitors to the new Centre will also be able to take advantage of a brand new permanent interactive exhibition called Landscapes of Life, which features fully immersive audio visual displays.
The Arboretum will have a series of events and activities commemorating 100 years of the Royal Airforce taking place during spring and summer 2018.
For further details, visit http://www.thenma.org.uk/.
The Royal Air Force Museum at Cosford, meanwhile, is a family attraction situated next to an active airfield. It is also the only place in the Midlands where it is possible to get close to so many different aircraft for free.
The museum is free to enter and tells the story of the people who moulded the world of aviation from the daredevil early aviators to wartime heroes and the thousands of ordinary Service men and women who have served in the RAF and whose contribution has shaped the world that we live in today.
With a world-class collection and display of aircraft, integrated with special exhibitions, films, interactives, artwork, engines, missiles, photographs, medals and uniforms and research and education facilities, the museum takes an innovative approach to telling these stories whilst keeping with tradition.
More than 70 aircraft of international importance are housed in three Wartime Hangars and within the National Cold War Exhibition, with visitors able to see the world’s oldest Spitfire and a Lincoln Bomber, just two of the highlights in the War In The Air Collection.
For 2018, new exhibitions will explore the first 100 years of the RAF and new aircraft displays, which are already underway, will enable the RAF’s story to be more comprehensively represented to Museum audiences in the Midlands, while Cosford will be the focus of ‘My RAF Story’, which promises to be the largest collection of publicly sourced RAF stories. A special RAF 100 anniversary event for families will also be held at Cosford on the weekend of 31 March and 1 April.
As well as the permanent and static exhibitions, RAF Museum Cosford hosts a busy annual calendar of events, including – each June – the famous RAF Cosford Air Show. For further details, visit https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/cosford/.
Further tourist information about Staffordshire as a whole is available at http://www.enjoystaffordshire.com.