Tucked away in the south-east corner of South Yorkshire, a short distance south of the former pit village of Maltby and near the historic Roche Abbey, lies the little, unassuming disused airfield of RAF Firbeck. Opened before World War 2, it was the private airfield for the nearby Firbeck Hall, a large residential Country Club for the very well-heeled in society. Requisitioned in WW2, the airfield was the home to Army Co-Op Squadrons but also doubled up as a Relief Landing Ground for RAF Hucknall and latterly (1944 onwards) was under the administration of 21 Group (Training), which saw a limited amount of gliding take place until closure in 1948.
The principal resident Squadrons, 613 (Lysanders), 654 (Auster I) and 659 (formed here with Auster IIIs) were largely used for local duties with nearby Army and Home Guard units. However, with the invasion of mainland Europe, 645 Sqn and 659 Sqn were moved out and closely followed the advancing Allied forces acting as air observation for artillery units, winning two DFCs in the process.
Post-War, the airfield was rapidly run down and the very temporary accommodation and technical site removed and the landing ground was returned to agriculture. A few relics remain scattered around: a pair of unusually designed air raid shelters in a local wood and the NCOs mess in the grounds of Firbeck Hall Farm (the Nissen hut watch office was moved there and now forms an extension to the Mess). In the 1980s, these huts formed the exhibition halls of the South Yorkshire Aviation Preservation Society’s museum. The majority of this collection formed the nucleus of Aeroventure, now at former RAF Doncaster.
A recent visit by Noel Ryan and myself saw the idea of a simple memorial germinate. A perfect location was found at the junction of three public footpaths on the concrete base of one of Firbeck’s small blister hangars. On the same day, contact was made with the landowner who was immediately enthusiastic. Over the weeks, a concerted effort to raise local awareness, including a leaflet drop in the village, which has resulted in very positive local feedback. Various Local Authority and Parish Councillors have also expressed a very positive attitude towards the project too – useful for the planning application process! Already, support has been pledged by the 613 Sqn Association and the village pub is to hold an auction. A dedicated bank account is in the process of being set up with the Co-Operative Bank (Community DirectPlus Account) (delayed due to the number of applicants for other community projects!); once open, a Pay Pal link will be organised for on-line donations via the Firbeck Memorial Fund Appeal web site (see below for details) and other on-line donation opportunities, including AiX. An announcement will be made on the forum once the Pay Pal link is established.
So far, the project has identified a suitable manufacturer for the stainless steel laser-engraved plaque, measuring 14” x 12”) and the cairn itself is to be of concrete core construction clad in locally-sourced, dressed limestone.
And this is where ARG comes in – so far as we know, this is the first ARG-endorsed memorial project of its kind. As such, we very much hope that ARG members will find a little something to help support the memorial fund – every little helps! For the time being, pledges and donations can be made by cheque made payable to the FIRBECK AIRFIELD MEMORIAL FUND to the address below. Announcements and updates will be made regularly on the forum and hopefully, we can have an e-newsletter for similar purposes.
The proposed dedication date is the 25th August, 2011 but for the time being this is, to a certain degree, flexible.
Please support us in this venture to help remember a little airfield with an interesting history and ensure it is not forgotten! Thank you!
Cheques made payable to the
FIRBECK AIRFIELD MEMORIAL FUND to
Firbeck Airfield Memorial Fund
c/o Chris Percy
206 Heavygate Road
Please include reply contact details (including e-mail) so receipt acknowledgements can be made.