With regret, and after much soul-searching, /Living-History Museum at the former RAF Bicester Aerodrome following the sale of the site by the MoD to another organisation (confusingly called) “Bicester Heritage Ltd” and their plans for a commercial business park based on vintage motoring.
BCH has worked tirelessly over the last 8-years to secure RAF Bicester for Public benefit as an Education Centre and major heritage tourism destination, and at great cost to all those involved. Thank you all so much for your help and support over the years. We are really proud of the excellent team that we were able to bring together for our RAF Bicester bid which included Liam O’Connor Architects, strategic partners Cherwell, Oxford, and Bicester Councils, and many other highly skilled individuals, organisations, and of course the BCH Volunteers and people of Bicester.
As the last intact RAF Bomber Station with a rich history, Bicester was such a unique site and the last viable opportunity to do finally something on a befitting scale for the much-neglected subject of RAF Bomber Command and the British and Commonwealth effort and sacrifice, including the true costs and consequences of such warfare. Linked to the new and highly successful London Bomber Command Memorial also designed by Liam, it would also have been a great heritage tourism resource and skills training facility set in the time capsule atmosphere of the site. It is just unfortunate that for some reason the MoD was blinkered to this heritage, and seemingly just went for maximum receipts in our opinion, having first made sure that BCH was unable to campaign properly by denying access to publicity from day-one back in 2005, and the full benefits that the Media and high-net-worth donors could bring if we could have accessed publicity. For example during the course of the campaign we had to refuse offers from the National Press to run fund-raising appeals etc., due to the MoD’s restrictions.
As an organisation working purely for the benefit of the Public, BCH was the only bidder who relied on the resources that the Media and general Public could contribute, so this was a critical handicap. The BCH scheme was unique, ambitious, and relied on marketing the site as a BCH Education Centre/Living-History Museum in order to attract both visitor numbers and content. Ownership was also crucial to maximise the numerous income streams so that the operation of the Education Centre, and proper restoration work and management of the Scheduled Ancient Monuments on site, were viable. As such a smaller pure museum-type facility without ownership and appropriate marketing and income streams, would not then be unique or viable.
So for the foreseeable future until such time as circumstances may or may not change BCH is limiting its activities to keeping a watching brief on the preservation of the site, and campaigning to prevent development around the boundary of the aerodrome which is also threatening the ambiance and rural nature of the site.
Additionally, and on a more positive note, BCH plans now to organise a small, memorial to the RAF Bicester Aerodrome and those who served there. It is not known yet where it can be sited and funding needs to be obtained, but we will as always do our best and at least it will be a permanent reminder no matter what becomes of the aerodrome in the future.
Onwards and upwards
BOMBER COMMAND HERITAGE
“…our journey together.”
Picture credit: www.pprune.org