Lord Trenchard opens museum at RAF Halton

Lord Trenchard, the Third Viscount Trenchard, visited RAF Halton to formally open the James McCudden Air Power Heritage Centre (JMAPHC). The JMAPHC aims to bring alive the story of an estate that has been associated with military training for more than 100 years with stands displaying WW1 artifacts, a recently built Mayfly replica aircraft and a Chipmunk flight simulator for visitors to experience a flight around the local area.

Supported by a Guard Of Honour, the Central Band of the Royal Air Force and a Fly Past by a BE2c Replica Aircraft, Lord Trenchard opened the museum and then took a tour escorted by Trenchard Museum Curator, Mr Francis Hanford.

After a welcoming speech from Halton’s former Station Commander, Lord Trenchard said: “It is a very great pleasure for me to be here again at RAF Halton. It is a station with which my family have strong historical connections. Between 1922 and 1952 my grandfather visited many times to speak to and encourage his boys, as he fondly called the RAF Apprentices, to see them at work and play. In later years his boys became known as his brats, the Halton Brats.

My grandfather paid tribute to Halton personnel; he said it was they that made victory in the air possible. 100 years ago a young James McCudden came to Halton as an engine mechanic with No 3 Squadron Royal Flying Corps on army manoeuvres.

James McCudden later became Britain’s most decorated pilot winning the Victoria Cross, two Distinguished Service Orders, two Military Crosses and several foreign awards.

He showed the greatest professionalism in consideration for his subordinates and he never forgot his roots as an engine mechanic. The naming of this Flight Heritage Centre is very appropriate, and I now have much pleasure in declaring it open.”

Also attending the event was a current 3 (Fighter) Squadron pilot, Squadron Leader Simon Batt, from RAF Coningsby, who paid tribute, saying: “My contemporaries in 1913 relied on the skill of their engineers in exactly the same way as we do today; we depend on them to get our job done. It is highly appropriate that RAF Halton, where engineering training took place for more than 75 years, remembers one of the most famous examples of a man who started as an engineer and went on to become a flying legend.”

Today, his 3 (F) Squadron successors operate the multirole Typhoon aircraft on duties around the World. Whilst some Station snippets are currently deployed in the NATO Baltic Air Policing task, others are continually ready 365 days a year as part of Quick Reaction Alert Operations in the UK and South Atlantic.

The JMAPHC has been built by volunteers with exhibits collected from around the country. It has received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Rolls Royce and the RAF Charitable Trust.

Francis Hanford, curator of the Trenchard Museum at RAF Halton since 1998, was determined to open a centre to inspire the youngsters of today to take up aero engineering. He chose James McCudden as the ideal icon being both an extremely competent mechanic and an ace fighter pilot. The centre was opened after 15 short months with the full support of Tom Costello, apprentice 1948-51, who raised £26,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, RAF Charitable Trust and Rolls Royce plc.

The paintings hung around the walls were blown up from watercolours executed by Phil Stephenson, an apprentice training at RAF Halton in the late 1930s. One of his paintings shows RAF Halton on 3 September 1939 the day that war was declared. A display about Frank Whittle, RAF apprentice, explains his story as the inventor of the jet engine. Brian Ellis, an ex-Halton instructor who is chief engineer of the Trenchard Museum, continues to develop educational aids to demonstrate factors affecting flight. His principal projects at the moment are the development of the wind tunnel and the building of a replica aircraft.

To visit the JMAPHC and Trenchard Museum call the Curator, Mr Francis Hanford, on 01296 656841.