From March 16, building work will begin to piece together the long-awaited International Bomber Command Centre (IBCC) on Canwick Hill in Lincoln, and a team of hundreds are working hard behind the scenes to give the project its wings.
With the first section of the £8 million centre (the Spire of Names) set to be unveiled on October 2, the Lincolnshire Bomber Command Memorial Trust are working with 182 volunteers from six countries to bring the vision to fruition.
Over the last few months, planners have revisited designs for the centre; renewing the layout and ensuring that a bigger restaurant and shop plan can sustain the running of the centre.
The new plans still echo fragments of Lancaster Bomber inspiration with the roof, instead of mirroring a set of wings, now representing a flat single wing the span of the aircraft (31 metres).
Previously, centre building plans measured 840 sq m. They have now been expanded to cover 1,100 sq m with bigger indoor and outdoor dining areas, and multi-functional areas suitable for educational and business functions.
The plans also house a bigger exhibition space with artistic Lincolnshire themes running through to the restaurant.
Despite needing to raise an additional £3 million to fund the build, the world-class facility has benefited from millions of pounds in Heritage Lottery and government funding and donations.
The site comprises of several elements: the Chadwick Centre, the Memorial Spire, the Bomber Command Archive and the International Peace Garden.
The spire, which is in production at a fabrication unit in Yorkshire, is taking form, with steel having been through the shaping process.
During the Second World War, more than 125,000 men served as aircrew in Bomber Command. Less than 70,000 returned – an attrition rate of just 44.4%.
Only 30% of those that flew got to the end of the Second World War without being killed, injured or taken prisoner of war. They were supported by 1000’s of men and women who served in ground crew, with the Air Transport Auxiliary, the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and many others.
The project will also create an archive that digitises and preserves hundreds of personal stories and documents including the recollections of some of the few remaining survivors of the campaigns.
This is being put together by a team of tireless volunteers, and the trust is looking for as many people as possible to come forward with stories and documents related to the Bomber Command. It’s hoped that 600 volunteers will benefit from the scheme by 2020, offering training in a wide number of areas.
Some 12 full time jobs will be created by the time the project is launched, as well as a number of part time positions.
Nicky Barr, Project Director of IBCC, said: “This is a big project and it’s got to be sustainable, so what we have to do as an organisation is make sure that this is not only viable now but into the future, to leave a legacy.
“There is an awful lot of work involving an awful lot of people to make sure that it lasts. It’s going to be an important facility both for community groups but also on an individual basis.
“For corporate groups it’s also a great venue to come and hold meetings and spend some time within the facilities.
“A big part of the project is being able to act as a hub for all the aviation heritage sites that we’ve got across the county. We’ve got a fantastic resource here and this gives us an opportunity to unite them and market them.”