Poignant memories at castle bastion of bombers

Wreaths at Allerton Castle near Knaresborough, the wartime headquarters of No 6 Group, Royal Canadian Air Force.
Wreaths at Allerton Castle near Knaresborough, the wartime headquarters of No 6 Group, Royal Canadian Air Force.
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From the ballroom of a historic North Yorkshire home wartime aerial offensives were planned by Canadian forces.

Behind Allerton Castle’s grand facade officers from the Royal Canadian Air Force’s No 6 Bomber Group were tasked with sending crews from airfields in the county on bombing raids over occupied Europe.

A support air force base was established on the grounds around the castle with Nissen Huts providing accommodation and facilities for the military personnel.

Yesterday the last two airworthy Lancasters, one of which belongs to the Royal Canadian Air Force, flew over the landmark.

Bad weather had halted plans to fly over the castle on Saturday following a ceremony in the grounds attended by RAF personnel and veterans who served within Canadian crews, to remember the sacrifice of those who served.

The two aircraft are currently on a tour of the country but this weekend’s visit was all the more poignant because of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s links with the castle, near Knaresborough, during the Second World War. They also flew over Holmfirth yesterday where a 1940s event was taking place.

John Cook, trustee of the Gerald Arthur Rolph Foundation, which runs Allerton Castle, said: “Its an incredible link to the house because the Canadians were here.

“We lost 4,270 aircrew from this base. It’s quite an emotional day for all the people attached to the house.

“Our ballroom in the castle was the operations room and when we started doing work in the house we found that there was information about the crews.”

He said staff had also found graffiti etched onto walls at the castle remembering colleagues and those who stood side by side in battle.

Staff at Allerton Castle are exceptionally proud of the contribution it made to the second world war effort as part of a history that dates back to the Doomsday Book.

Images from the castle’s time as a military base during the Second World War were saved when a third of Allerton Castle was destroyed by fire in 2005. They now grace walls once bustling with personnel carrying top secret messages or plans for the next raid over occupied Europe.

British Thumper, maintained by the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, was reunited with Canadian Vera, named for its identification markings V-RA, maintained by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum which arrived in England last month.

Although 7,377 Lancaster aircraft were produced 
between 1941 and 1946, only Thumper and Vera remain fit to 
fly. They have been touring 
the UK in the Royal Canadian 
Air Force’s 90th anniversary 
year to commemorate the 
shared wartime experience 
of UK and Canadian 
pilots.

The Canadian Lancaster is dedicated to the memory of Royal Canadian Air Force Pilot Officer Andrew Mynarski. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross after his aircraft was shot down over France in 1944.

As the aircraft fell out of the sky, Mynarski attempted to free the trapped tail-gunner. He survived the crash but later died. Remarkably, the gunner lived to tell his story.

Mr Cook said Mynarski was based with a squadron, that was part of No 6 Bomber Group, and said staff at the castle were delighted to have been involved in “Vera’s homecoming”.