Official Opening Of The New RAF Hornchurch Heritage Centre
A truly emotional day has now passed into history, as the new RAF Hornchurch Heritage Centre had its official opening on Sunday 19th September (Battle of Britain Sunday), the ceremony of handing over the keys from a Bellway representative, Jamie McCarthur to the Trusts Chairman Tony Philpot, and the official speech and cutting of the ribbon was very ably carried out by Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon GCB, CBE. The Trust’s President Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP was on hand as was our Vice President Brendan Finucane QC along with many members of the Finucane family who came to see the display of items from ‘Paddy’ Finucane’s archive. Sir Peter Marshall KCMG CMG CVOI was also one of the many distinguished guests there on the day. The Mayor of Havering Cllr John Mylod as well as RA Ward councillors from both Hacton and Elm Park were also in attendance along with local MP’s Julia Lopez and Andrew Rosindell. The family of the late Ted Exall (Founder of the RAF Hornchurch Association) Stephen, Maxine and Grant, Ted’s three children with their families who came to carry out the opening of the education suite named in Ted’s honour.
A big thanks goes out to all the Trustees and volunteers that have worked so hard to get the Trust to this point in its long journey. Chairman Tony Philpot said, I was personally so very proud to have the family of the late Ted Exall here today, this day was about Ted and his dream of seeing a place where RAF Hornchurch could be remembered, all the years that he put into the venture of getting a permanent home has finally come to fruition. The local ATC and Police cadets and their officers helped form the guard of honour along with standard bearer Michael Gosling and colleagues from the Royal Naval Association.
There was also a flypast by the BBMF’s Spitfire Mk IIa P7350, this aircraft once flew with 603 Squadron (AuxAF) from RAF Hornchurch in October 1940. It’s flying partner for the day was Hawker Hurricane Mk IIc PZ865, which first flew on 27th July 1944, the very last of 14,533 Hawker Hurricanes built. So once again these iconic aircraft were seen and heard flying over us as we all stood on part of this truly hallowed ground of the former Hornchurch airfield, fighting back our emotions. We were also honoured to have two buses from the Ensign Bus Vintage Fleet courtesy of Steve Newman director of Ensign Buses, one of which was requisitioned by the RAF for aircrew transport in 1939 possibly used at RAF Hornchurch and a couple of Willis jeeps also adorned the front of the Heritage Centre. Many other relatives of famous names who had once graced this airfield were in attendance, along with some veteran’s that had been based at the airfield.