Memorial – Overview
In 2002, 4 former Auxiliaries founded and became Trustees of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force National Memorial Trust. The Trust’s objective was to provide a Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire dedicated to all those who had served in the Auxiliary Air Force, the 48 RAF Companies of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (an all female Service affiliated to the AAF) or the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. It was intended that the Memorial should remember in particular those who died in the cause of freedom.
The Arboretum Trustees agreed that the Memorial could be erected to the West of the Royal Air Force Memorial. They also agreed a plot design.
The cost of the undertaking was estimated to be in the order of £10,000 of which the purchase cost of the plot would be £4,000, the Memorial and its accoutrements £5,000, and the Dedication ceremony arrangements £1,000. The requisite funds were raised within 18 months thanks to generous donations from past and present Honorary Air Commodores, Auxiliaries and members of the civilian community. A significant sum of £3,800 was also raised through a sponsored cycle ride, masterminded by Squadron Leader Charlie Anderson of 606 (Chiltern) Squadron, which involved serving Auxiliaries from Squadrons and Units from around the country.
Having found the requisite funding, work on the Memorial began in 2003 and was completed 6 months later. Built of fired bricks, the Memorial is octagonal in shape. The front face describes the Memorial, and the rear 5 faces list the Units that have at one time or another from 1924 up to 2004 been in either the Auxiliary Air Force or its successor, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. The Memorial is in the centre of a rectangular plot which is bordered by trees and within which are 4 benches provided by the 4 Royal Air Force Volunteer Squadrons which became part of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force in 1998. The Memorial was flanked by 2 flag-poles flying the ensigns of the Royal Air Force and of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, but these have since been removed to comply with Arboretum regulations.
On 25th September 2004, following a Service in the Arboretum Chapel, the Memorial was formally dedicated in the presence of HRH The Duke of Gloucester. The Dedication Address is linked to this web-page. Music was provided by the Central Band of the Royal Air Force, and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight provided a fly-past including a Lancaster, a Spitfire and a Hurricane, the latter both bearing Auxiliary Air Force Squadron identities.
Being located on a gravel extraction site, the Arboretum in its early days had few trees on it to offer protection to the first-built Memorial from the prevailing weather. The RAuxAF Memorial was no exception, and the driving wind and rain caused the mortar around its brickwork to crumble. By 2011, it had become clear that major restoration was required.
At the same time, it was noted that the recently dedicated Royal Canadian Air Force Memorial had been built with polished and engraved granite slabs which were not only visually very attractive but were also virtually impervious to inclement weather. Although this Canadian Memorial was not in any way connected with the either the Royal Auxiliary Air Force or the Foundation, it merits further mention, firstly, because its cost was underwritten by Dr Michael Oliver who has supported other projects which have a Royal Auxiliary Air Force link, and, secondly, because its design and construction was managed by Squadron Leader Alfie, Hall, a Foundation Trustee who, on the basis of this experience, agreed to mastermind the refurbishment of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Memorial.
The NMA approved plans to encase the existing structure in black polished slabs granite on which were engraved in gold lettering the same details as had been displayed on the former Memorial. It was also agreed that an outer ring of paving stones should be added on which 4 benches could be positioned and that the area within the ring should be made available for Memorial Stones remembering deceased personnel who had served in the Force. Funding for the project was provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Refurbishment began in 2011 under the direction of Young Johnson Monumental Masons Ltd – experienced stonemasons who had built several other Memorials at the Arboretum. This involved removal of the eagle and the corroded cast-iron aluminium panels The bare brick structure was than strengthened and the new polished and engraved granite slabs fixed to it Once completed, the eagle, now refurbished, was securely remounted on the Memorial and then painted with security markers provided by the SmartWater company.
The refurbished Memorial was dedicated at a moving Service on 15th May 2014 in the presence of the Foundation’s Patron, HRH The Duke of Gloucester. In attendance were serving and former members of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. The dedication of Memorial Stones to two Auxiliaries who had been killed whilst on active service in Iraq and Afghanistan added further poignancy to the occasion.
Since then, Remembrance and Memorial Stone Dedication Services have been held, usually annually, in the summer months.