Sometimes in life you work long and hard and fail. The dedicated volunteers who’ve created Havering’s RAF museum have no worries. They’ve triumphed.
RAF Hornchurch was at the epicentre of the Battle of Britain. The street names in the area memorialise their heroic deeds and two schools have been named to celebrate their victory.1 But there was no museum to gather together every facet of RAF Hornchurch.
The museum is organised around ten themes, each with their dedicated space. Because this was a labour of love, the volunteers went the extra mile to curate the collection. A stellar example was tracking down the uniforms of Wing Commander Finucane in Room 2. They were unseen and unloved in a professional museum until they were rescued and given a prominent display cabinet.
Room 5 tells the story of Sanders Draper who heroically saved hundreds of children’s lives by sacrificing his own when his Spitfire had catastrophic engine failure. As of September 2021, the local academy will revert to his name after the dismal decision to delete it a few years ago.
Room 6, The Home Front Room is richly evocative and filled with the everyday aspects of civilian lives. There are memoirs, with photographs, which cumulatively add up to a rare and wonderful insight into what that generation had to put with.
I spent about an hour in the museum but feel I only touched the surface. The volunteer guides are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful.
There’s a small car park and an entry fee of £5. If you sense that you’ll be returning, and I will, then the £20 annual membership fee is a bargain. The museum is staffed by volunteers and is open each Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. till 4 p.m.
1 R J Mitchell Junior School and the Sanders Draper Academy