Celebrating county's proud RAF heritage
Council Leader, Councillor Kay Cutts talks about the many well-known - and less well-known - links between our county and the Royal Air Force, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
The Royal Air Force marks its centenary this year, so it seems an opportune time to reflect on some of Nottinghamshire’s many connections with this great British institution.
Only last week I was in Hucknall for the opening of a new road, funded by the County Council and Rolls Royce, which connects the Rolls Royce plant to the Hucknall by-pass, diverting works traffic from residential roads and opening up land for new housing and employment land at the appropriately named, Harrier Park.
Harrier Park has been given its name because of the site's links to the development of the Harrier jump jet. In 1953 the world's first vertical take-off and landing took place at Hucknall on a Rolls Royce Thrust Measuring Rig, known as the Flying Bedstead - the same technology used in the development of the Harrier Jump Jet.
Hucknall Rolls Royce engineers also played a vital role in the development of the Merlin engine – so famed for powering the majestic Spitfire aircraft which played such a vital role in defending Britain’s skies during World War 2.
In fact, Hucknall’s links to the Royal Air Force go back to the very beginning and its predecessor, the Royal Flying Corps, with Hucknall Aerodrome serving as a training base.
There have been ten RAF bases in our county at one time or another, with many, such as Balderton, Langer, Newton, Ossington, Syerston, Watnall, Winthorpe and Worksop established during the Second World War.
The former RAF base at Winthorpe is now home to Newark Air Museum, which is a wonderful attraction and well worth a visit.
Another, perhaps less well known link with the Royal Air Force is Nottinghamshire-born composer, Eric Coates.
Eric Coates was born in Hucknall in 1886 and composed a huge range of popular music including much-loved TV and radio themes such as the ‘Forsyte Saga’ and ‘Desert Island Discs’.
He is, perhaps, best known though for composing the famous theme to the 1955 film, The Dambusters, which is now synonymous with the RAF and aircraft generally. His former home at Beardall Street, Hucknall is marked with a blue heritage plaque.
As well as being home to the bases, the aeroplane builders and even the musicians, Nottinghamshire was also home to one of the country most famous early fighter pilots.
Captain Albert Ball from Lenton regarded as one of the great British pilots of the First World War. He was was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for single-handedly taking on and destroying scores of enemy aircraft, before he was tragically killed when he crashed in a French field on 7 May 1917, aged just 20.
Captain Ball is one of six Nottinghamshire-born men who received the Victoria Cross for their outstanding bravery during the Great War and will be honoured in a special exhibition about them which will tour the county from this summer.
Councillor Kay Cutts, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council