Wartime airfield museum awarded for shoestring project

Receiving their highly commended award - Friends of Metheringham Airfield. EMN-190110-180228001
Receiving their highly commended award - Friends of Metheringham Airfield. EMN-190110-180228001

A wartime airfield visitor centre has received a heritage award for the achievements and efforts of its band of volunteers to preserve and promote it.

Metheringham Airfield Visitor Centre sited on former RAF Metheringham has grown from strength to strength since a small army of volunteers began work on part of the airfield to turn the remains of Second World War buildings into a welcoming piece of aviation heritage.

A total of 130 invited guests attended the Biennial Regional Heritage Awards held at the National Civil War Museum and Palace Theatre in Newark on September 24.

The awards are organised and funded by Museum Development East Midlands which recognise excellence and innovation in museums, historic houses and heritage sites across the region.

An accolade was given to the Metheringham Airfield Visitor Centre for its achievements and efforts to keep aviation heritage alive in the bomber county of Lincolnshire, and the United Kingdom.

The Friends of Metheringham Airfield were highly commended in the Best Project on a Shoestring (less than £1,000) award category for “Creating a Memorial Room fit for heroes at the Metheringham Airfield Visitor Centre.”

The visitor centre’s memorial room project transformed a neglected storeroom, into an airy, accessible exhibition space honouring the men and women associated with RAF Metheringham’s part in the second World War.

It now displays artefacts from the museum collection previously held in archives. Importantly the room also offers flexible space for school visits.

Prior to the project the room had limited use except as a store and there was a small space for the curatorial team to do some training on how to inspect uniforms for pests.

A team of volunteers emptied the room and a group of students from The Priory Lincoln Academy planned and made repairs to the walls and repainted the room.

The curatorial volunteers placed all the display cases into the room, added the PIR sound box, sourced the artefacts from the collection and installed them.

The once neglected area in the museum has now been repurposed as a flexible space. It can now be used to house a permanent exhibition yet be flexible enough to provide some space for visiting exhibitors, be suitable to deliver school sessions and be available as a small meeting room for visiting community groups.

Veterans’ families who have donated artefacts have told the centre that they view the Memorial Room as a place of pilgrimage, since it is the only place where some of those who served at RAF Metheringham can be remembered hence the name Memorial Room.

Visitors have also told the team that they have been emotionally moved by the exhibition, particularly by the reactive speaker which (recorded by one of the volunteers) recites the names of all airmen who flew from RAF Metheringham during the war but did not return. This appeals to those who have visual impairments, making the museum more accessible than before.

The aerodrome was home in the last two years of the war to the famous 106 Squadron of Lancasters whose commanding officer, when based at RAF Syerston, was none other than Wing Commander Guy Gibson who became leader of 617 Squadron, commonly known as the Dambusters, flying from wartime RAF Scampton.

The volunteers of Friends of Metheringham Airfield have made strides in the field of aviation heritage. The old gymnasium has become well known in aviation circles for hosting its lectures such as the recent talk by retired Air Marshall Peter Ruddock where there was standing room only.

The group was given a Dakota aircraft which is being restored by volunteers.

Funding is underway for its restoration and a hanger is being built to keep it out of the elements. It is said that Prime Minister Winston Churchill, General Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower and King George VI may have used this aircraft for transportation during the war period.

Dakota aircraft landed at RAF Metheringham bringing in US army casualties from the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy. The wounded soldiers were afterwards transferred to nearby RAF Nocton Hall which was used as a US military hospital. Hence the connection of Dakota aircraft at the Methingham airfield.