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Declassified: RAF Elvington's Tragic Wartime Past

The former base was once home to the allied bomber crews, and is now the site of the Yorkshire Air Museum.

RAF Elvington was completely rebuilt with three hardened runways in 1942 (Picture: Yorkshire Air Museum/Neill Watson).

As part of celebrations to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force, we have been taking a look at how some old RAF bases are being used today, after being closed following the end of the Second World War.

Just outside the city of York is RAF Elvington.

Once home to the allied bomber crews, it is now the site of the Yorkshire Air Museum.

During the Second World War, Elvington's control tower was the nerve centre of the base and today it remains part of the museum.

RAF Elvington
The all-important control tower (Picture: Yorkshire Air Museum).

From this important airfield, thousands of aircrews risked their lives day in and day out, including many French personnel who formed a significant part of the bomber command station.

Elvington was home to Handley Page Halifax Bombers, operated by 77 Squadron. They lost 82 aircraft and 450 aircrew while based there.

Ian Reed, director of the museum, spoke about Elvington’s significance when it came to ultimately bringing an end to the war:

"Elvington was particularly involved in the pre-D-Day attacks to soften up the beaches before the allied landings.

"It was part of the bombing offensive to cripple German war production.

"[The bomber crews] were young men - they often tell me in old age that if they knew what they knew then, they’d never had stepped in an aeroplane."

RAF Elvington
A Halifax Bomber crew from RAF Elvington (Picture: Yorkshire Air Museum).

In early 1944, 77 Squadron moved to the newly opened airfield at Full Sutton and Elvington became host to two French Air Force Squadrons operating within No. 4 Group: No. 346 and No. 347.

In October 1945, the French Squadrons left for Bordeaux and Elvington became part of 40 Group Maintenance Command until 1952, when it became part of the expansion programme for US Strategic Air Command.

The runway was lengthened to 1.92 miles, one of the longest in Britain, but with the advent of submarine-launched 'Polaris' nuclear missiles the base never became operational and it was vacated in 1958.

RAF Elvington
Taking a tour of the base atop an Armored Ferrit vehicle.

In the present day, the museum acts as a memorial to those killed during the Second World War and provides a rare opportunity to experience a museum set in the very place It commemorates it.

RAF Elvington