Following the merger of the RAF Defford Reunion Association with the Defford Airfield Heritage Group, the gathering at RAF Defford Memoral in Defford Village was the largest yet, with over 35 members, family members and friends present for the laying of the wreath and prayers at 11 a.m.
This was followed by lunch in Defford Village Hall, and the Annual General Meeting of DAHG. At the AGM, the three retiring officers – Graham Evans (Chairman), Dennis Williams and Bob Shaw – were re-elected, with Sylvia Evans elected as Hon. Treasurer.
The Chairman reported on the merger of DAHG with RAFDRA, agreed between himself and Albert Shorrock, and ratified by the DAHG Committee. Funds from RAFDRU had been transferred to the DAHG account. The meeting agreed unanimously to approve the merger.
The Chairman thanked Albert for all his hard work, mostly single-handed in recent years, to keep the RAFDRA going. He commended to the meeting, a proposal from Bob Shaw, seconded Dennis Williams, that the combined Group should have a President, and that the President should be Albert Shorrock. Carried unanimously, with a Vote of Thanks to Albert. Albert responded by giving credit to others who had founded the RAFDRA and been active in the early days.
The Chairman went on to report that the Group had had a successful year, especially the Reunion event combined with the National Trust (NT) Heritage Weekend in September, with thanks especially to Dennis Williams and Antony Whitehead for all their input and hard work over two days, plus thanks to Mike Dean for some excellent display material.
The sale of leaflets and cards in the NT shop was generating income, he thanked Michael Barnard for his cartoons, also for generating publicity for the Group through the local media.
The Chairman proposed that the Annual Subscription should be set at £5 for both former RAFDRA members and DAHG members – after discussion, agreed unanimously.
The Proposed Programme for 2012 includes Group involvement with the Defford Air Day (fly-in) at Croft Farm on a date to be confirmed in June; Croome ‘1940s Weekend’ July 7/8; Battle of Britain Day at Croome, Sat. Sept. 15th; Remembrance Day and AGM, Sunday Nov. 11th. Reunion date to be confirmed – either July 7th or Sept. 15th.
Newsletter (‘Contact!’) to continue, the Christmas edition would be Albert’s swan-song, after that to be compiled and issued by DAHG Committee, to all members, distribution list as before, by e-mail where possible to save postage.
The Chairman reported on good relations with NT, quarterly meetings are held with Michael Smith and NT officers, also good relations with the Friends of Croome Park. There are longer term proposals by NT for restoration of all RAF buildings on the Medical site, which could include a permanent display area and archive for the Group. In the meantime, DAHG has been allocated secure warm dry storage space in a first floor room in The Court, and we are working with NT to improve the display in the room next to the Canteen, where Albert’s model of the Airfield is now on permanent exhibition, together with the Roll of Honour, the Spitfire painting, and explanatory plaques. DAHG will also have a shorter-term display in the Servants’ Hall in the basement of The Court.
He spoke of the excellent work by the Electronics Restoration Trust as part of the Group, it is hoped to arrange a visit to the ERT premises in the New Year.
Secretary’s Report: The Group is now formally recognised by the National Trust (NT), which is a very important step forward in the status of the Group at Croome. All Group members who apply, will be awarded individually, NT Volunteer status, which has some useful benefits for members. Recognition of the Group by the NT was established, after many months slow progress, by a decision that an exchange of letters would be acceptable to NT Head Office, and this was duly done. It is quite clear NT now regard the RAF period as a very important part of the history of Croome, and clearly value the contribution the Group can make. Dennis Williams had given an excellent lecture on the story of Defford airfield at an NT Lecture Lunch earlier in the month, this should further increase awareness.
Vice-Chairman’s Report: Dennis Williams reported on the latest exciting finds made on archaeological visits to the airfield, with more to come. The archives have benefitted from information from many quarters. The Group was liaising with the Friends of Croome Park in the Oral History project, it was important to interview as many RAF, TFU and TRE veterans as possible. DAHG would have display space in the Oral History room in The Court.
He reported that celebrations would be held in Malvern in April 2012, including a dinner, to mark the 70th anniversary of the arrival of TRE at Malvern College – it is also of course the 70th anniversary of arrival of TRE and TFU at Defford. It was hoped DAHG would be involved in events. There is close co-operation between DAHG and the Malvern Radar and Technology History Society (MRATHS) made up of current and former QinetiQ employees. DAHG may have involvement in QinetiQ families day in July 2012.
Regarding publications, the proposed Defford Airfield Guidebook, uniform with NT Guides and supported by the NT, was coming on well. He was helping the NT Curator for Croome Court with a bid to the Heritage lottery fund. The Group were preparing Captions for the Photographs in the canteen. The book by Bob Shaw, ‘Top Secret Boeing’, would be published soon, and will be on sale at Croome. This book relates the life story of the Boeing 247D DZ203 which played a key part in radar development at Defford 1942-1946, including the introduction of US 10cm radar which became the standard AI Mk 10 with the RAF; pioneering work on ‘X-band’ (3cm) radar including AI with lock-follow, ASV to detect ‘schnorkel’ U-boats and low level bombing radar for the Fleet Air Arm, and finally, the World’s first automatic landing, with automatic homing, orbit and approach, in 1945.