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The Chairman of the Middleton St George Memorial Association says the forthcoming visit to Durham Tees Valley Airport of one of only two Lancaster bombers still flying in the world will be ‘a unique opportunity to recognise the huge contribution to defending our freedoms from all those who flew from this airfield during World War Two.’
Geoff Hill, who has worked closely with the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum and the airport in planning for the visit of the historic aircraft on August 28th, says that many veterans and the current crew of the Lancaster will be taking part in ceremonies the Association is planning on the day of the visit.
He explains “Obviously the main attraction on the day will be the Mynarski Memorial Lancaster which has flown to the UK from its base in Canada for a series of visits across the UK.
“The Association organises a reunion weekend every year to remember the crucial role which the airfield—then, of course, RAF Middleton St George—and the brave men who flew from here played in the War and the Lancaster visit is a chance to make many more people aware of its history.
“Of course, the bravery of Canadian Pilot Officer Andrew Mynarski, who was posthumously awarded the VC for his efforts to rescue a comrade when their plane was shot down over France, is deservedly recognised, but it should be remembered that very many of his fellow airmen also paid the ultimate sacrifice…1,266 men lost their lives carrying out missions from the base during the War.”
The Association will be organising ceremonies around the statue to Andrew Mynarski which stands outside the St George Hotel, which itself served as the officers’ mess during the War. The crew of the Lancaster will take part in a wreath laying ceremony and will be presented with a framed squadron print and with some of the original crockery used in the officers’ mess and bearing the Canadian crests which will go on display in the museum in Ontario. The ceremony will also hear a recording of the moving speech made by Father John Lardie who served as the Roman Catholic padre at Middleton St George during the War, on the occasion in 1985 of the Dedication of the Memorial outside the St George Hotel.
In addition the Association will have a stand in the foyer of the Hotel featuring photographs and memorabilia from days when the building served as the officers’ mess and when Lancasters and other warplanes were a daily sight over the area.
Tickets for the Lancaster Celebration Day sold out within three days of going on sale. The event will run between 11am and 6pm. Entry to the car park will be permitted from 10:30am onwards.
All profits from the event will go to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.