Can you help? Volunteering opportunities at RAF Defford Museum

Working jointly with The National Trust, we are embarking on a volunteer recruitment drive, to staff the RAF Defford Museum. It is planned the Museum will be open from late September, 1030 to 1630, seven days a week – that is 42 hours per week.  For every hour the Museum is open to the public, there will need to be at least one DAHG-trained, National Trust enrolled volunteer Museum Steward on duty.

Volunteer Museum Stewards will play a vital role, talking to visitors and helping them understand the history of RAF Defford and its achievements.

Volunteers will receive the general induction normal for Room Stewards, with specialist training involving DAHG for their role in the Museum. As National Trust registered volunteers, Museum stewards will be receive various benefits and privileges, and join a group with a high degree of team spirit and esprit de corps.

Can you help us for a half a day a week?  Contact us for more details.

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RAF Defford Museum on track to open in September

The RAF Defford Museum will open in September and fulfil a long cherished dream of DAHG members.

On May 16th, the restored Decontamination Annexe was formally handed over to the National Trust at Croome by the contractors, Croft Building and Conservation. The historic building has been restored externally to its 1942 appearance, but adapted internally to house the RAF Defford Museum.

RAF Defford Museum building, the exterior restored to its 1942 appearance, in May 2014

RAF Defford Museum building, the exterior restored to its 1942 appearance, in May 2014

The building work for the restoration was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Evesham-based company Severn Waste Services, through the Landfill Community Scheme, which contributed up to £87,500, with the balance coming from the National Trust, towards the total cost of building works estimated at £135,000.

RAF Defford Museum building looking through to the restored interior, in May 2014

RAF Defford Museum building looking through to the restored interior, in May 2014

Also this month, Defford Airfield Heritage Group received the news that we have been awarded an ‘Our Heritage’ grant of £82,900 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to fund the museum contents and carry out an education and outreach programme over three years.

This brings the total cost of the project so far to over £200,000.

The Museum is now on course to open to the public on Saturday, September 27th.

RAF Defford Museum building, the exterior restored to its 1942 appearance, in May 2014

RAF Defford Museum building, the exterior restored to its 1942 appearance, in May 2014

A joint draft press released by the Heritage Lottery Fund and DAHG says:

“The Defford Airfield Heritage Group, working in partnership with the National Trust, has received £82,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project, the creation of the RAF Defford Museum at Croome in Worcestershire. Led by volunteers from the local community, the project will be based in a World War II building at the former Sick Quarters used by RAF Defford, now owned by the National Trust. The first phase of the museum development will be open to visitors by the end of September 2014.

The RAF Defford Museum at Croome is a unique project that brings together the Defford Airfield Heritage Group’s specialised historical knowledge and skills and the National Trust’s wealth of experience in conserving heritage for the enjoyment of all. The Decontamination Annexe, which forms part of the RAF Defford Sick Quarters site, will provide a permanent home for the museum, with facilities specially designed to present an imaginative and stimulating audio-visual experience to all Croome visitors.

The museum will tell the fascinating story of RAF Defford during World War II and the Cold War years, emphasising its vital role in the flight testing of secret radar systems devised by scientists at the Telecommunications Research Establishment at Malvern. But it will also describe the part played by the station in the social history of rural Worcestershire, and the way in which the construction of the airfield dramatically changed the landscape of Croome Park, now owned by the National Trust.

An outreach and education programme is an essential part of the project, enabling us to tell the story of RAF Defford to local groups and societies, and most importantly to young people in schools, colleges and universities. The project will also bring a wide range of new volunteer opportunities to the National Trust at Croome, in setting up and running the museum, carrying out historical research, and assisting with the outreach activities.

Commenting on the award, Dr Dennis Williams, the Custodian of the RAF Defford Museum, said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and are confident the project will be of interest to Croome’s many visitors and may also show young people what Air Force life was really like in wartime Worcestershire”.

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Guided RAF Walks 2014 – next date 3rd August

The ‘RAF Defford Walk’ at Croome offers an opportunity to learn all about the fascinating history of RAF Defford, and visit what remains to be seen in and from Croome Park, of the Secret Airfield where history was made in the Second World War and the Cold War which followed. The Walk will be led by by an expert from the Defford Airfield Heritage Group.

Guided RAF Defford Walks in 2014 are on the first Sunday of every month:

Sunday April 6th, then
May 4th,
June 1st,
July 6th,
August 3rd.
There will be a further programme in the Autumn.

Meet at National Trust Reception, Croome Park, at 10:15 for the start of the Walk at 10:30. The Walk will last up to 2 hours. Suitable clothing and good shoes should be worn. There is no charge but those going on the Guided Walk are advised to buy a copy of the RAF Defford Walk booklet, price £1 from Reception.

For further details, please see the National Trust Events page and Croome visitor information.

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The Tea Car arrives!

Thanks to an initiative by DAHG, the National Trust at Croome is now the
proud possessor of ‘Bertha’, a fully restored genuine 1941 YMCA ‘Tea
Car’.  Bertha is fully functional, immaculately preserved and equipped to
serve food and drink to visitors.

1941 Austin K2 YMCA tea car arrives at Croome, the site of former RAF Defford

1941 Austin K2 YMCA tea car arrives at Croome, the site of former RAF Defford

The vehicle was built for the same purpose as the more familiar NAAFI van,
but this is one which was provided and operated by YMCA for the benefit of
the Services. During the War, catering vans provided by organisations such
as NAAFI, YMCA, Salvation Army, the WI and so on – were familiar sights on
airfields, trundling around the perimeter track to provide sustenance to
ground staff working at ‘dispersals’. There was certainly at least one
such van at RAF Defford.

In response to a challenge from the National Trust’s need for an
additional outlet to serve food and drink to visitors outdoors on the ‘RAF
Site’, especially at peak days and in the holiday season, DAHG launched a
search for such a van at a reasonable price.

1941 Austin K2 YMCA tea car arrives at Croome, formerly RAF Defford

1941 Austin K2 YMCA tea car “Bertha” arrives at Croome, formerly RAF Defford

Thanks to the expert help of Ali Adlkish, Avonside Motors, Evesham, it was finally possible to source an authentic, restored 1941 Austin K2 YMCA ‘Tea Van’, for sale in Holland. Following a sea journey to England, Bertha was thoroughly overhauled at Ali’s workshop, and has now been delivered to Croome.

Bertha will blend in well with the restored RAF buildings and be a star
attraction at Croome from spring 2014, both as a beautifully restored and
preserved WW2 exhibit, and for the food and drink she will serve. She
will earn her keep, assisted by the Croome Catering Staff – watch out for
them in 1940s dress!

She will make her debut to the public on the weekend of March 29th / 30th (Mothering Sunday) at Croome.

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RAF Walks 2014

Guided versions of the ‘RAF Defford Walk’ will run again in 2014, starting in April. The walks start at Visitor Reception. For all details, please see the National Trust Events page.

The ‘RAF Defford Walk’ was launched in May 2013, and can be taken at other times using the DAHG booklet available at Croome.

National Trust visitor reception to Croome, in a former RAF Defford building

National Trust visitor reception to Croome, in a former RAF Defford building

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Date set for Defford Heritage Day 2014

This year’s Defford Airfield Heritage Day will take place on Saturday 12th July 2014 from 10am – 5pm, at National Trust Croome Park, Worcestershire, WR8 9DW.

More details will follow on the main page for the event here:

Posted in DAHG Events, Diary dates



Building work on the restoration of the Decontamination Annexe of RAF Defford in Croome Park is due to start in week commencing January 13th 2014, and be completed by the end of March. But completion of the interior of the building and opening to the public of the RAF Defford Museum will not be until at least August or September. This is because for various good reasons, the application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for funding for the interior of the buildings, its fixtures, fittings and displays, has been delayed. It has now been agreed the application will come from the National Trust, and it is now pending. In the meantime, from the end of March onwards we expect to have a fully restored but empty building, which can be used for temporary displays intended to give visitors a foretaste of things to come.

The project to restore the decontamination Annexe and fit it out to house the new Museum, is being driven by a Project Board appointed by the National Trust, and comprising Michael Smith (the Property Manager at Croome) as Chairman, with Dr Dennis Williams and Dr Bob Shaw from DAHG. The professional Project Manager is Sarah Fowler, an experienced surveyor, who reports to Michael Smith and to Shaun Wilkes, Resident Surveyor in overall charge at Croome.

As announced a couple of months ago, Dennis Williams, the DAHG Archivist, has been appointed by the National Trust as Custodian of the new Museum with wide curatorial responsibilities.

The decision has been taken to entitle the new Museum, the RAF Defford Museum. Although previously referred to as the ‘Defford Airfield Heritage Museum’, as Dennis points out this is something of a tautology. After considering various word permutations, the Project Board agreed on RAF Defford Museum. The previous title was a bit of a mouthful, the new name rolls of the tongue more easily. In any event, we know everyone at Croome will simply refer to it as the ‘RAF Museum’, whatever we say, so we might as well go with the flow.
The building project was put out to tender in early November. Tender responses are now in, and as an outcome the contractors Croft Building and Conservation Ltd have been appointed by the National Trust to carry out the delicate and sensitive work of restoring the Decontamination Annexe to as near as possible its 1942 appearance, while adapting it to accommodate the Museum and meet modern requirements such as thermal insulation – and ensuring that bats, a protected species, are not disadvantaged!

The whole project has been made possible by a generous grant and on-going support and encouragement from the Evesham-based firm Severn Waste Services through the Landfill Communities Scheme, managed by the Pershore-based charity Welcome to our Future.

Posted in DAHG Research, Museum