The Centre’s collections relating to the War in the Air

contain material relating to diverse aspects of aviation experience from fighter pilots and bomber crews to the ground staff responsible for their safety and the support provided by the women’s services. The collection encompasses the various countries caught up in this conflict and we are proud to hold the archives of the Mosquito Aircrew Association. Please also take time to visit our Key Aspects pages to look in more depth at the varied events and campaigns involving air force support that we plan to include in the coming year.

War in the Air – Allied: British and Commonwealth

Of course, the Royal Air Force played a vital role during the Second World War, both in home defence and offensive operations in Europe and the Far East. The Battle of Britain remains at the forefront of popular consciousness when considering the role of Fighter Command, yet in photo-reconnaissance, night-fighter work and as bomber escorts the pilots had other important roles. For those who piloted and crewed the bombers it was an equally arduous job, undertaken at great personal risk. The intensive bombing campaign over Europe, aimed at strategic targets and industrial centres was carried out too in other theatres of the war, such as the North African campaign. We also feature personal experiences from those involved in the continual maintenance of the aircraft and support of the crews, in mine-laying, Coastal Command, Transport Command and the women of the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force).

This area of the archive is developing well and we would like to expand our holdings to encompass further personal experiences of those involved in Commonwealth airforces. In these pages we aim to include biographies, memoir extracts, photographs and documents as time permits.

Should you wish to contribute memories or memorabilia please see how to Donate Material.

War in the Air – Allied: Europe

The Polish airforce suffered severe losses as German troops invaded, yet some escaped to play a vital role operating from British soil. Shortly after, the French, Belgian and Dutch airforces were overwhelmed by the German advance, yet the Free French too operated with the RAF, as well as Norwegians and Czechs. As a newly developing area of the archive we would welcome more contributions of memories and memorabilia from those people from Europe who flew in the RAF, some in designated European squadrons as well as personnel of the Soviet airforce. For more details please see how to Donate Material

War in the Air – Allied: USA

The USA Air Force operated from British airfields while conducting the lengthy air war over Europe as well as pursuing a vigorous air campaign in the Pacific from Carriers and island bases. The Centre holds a good collection of personal experiences of those involved in the American airforce, and examples are shown here, illustrated by biographies, memoir extracts, photographs and documents. However we would make further contributions of memories and memorabilia to the archive very welcome. For further information please see how to Donate Material.

War in the Air – Axis

This area of the archive is newly developing and we plan to feature personal experiences of those involved in the Luftwaffe, Regia Aeronautica or Japanese airforce whether as fighter pilots or bomber pilots and crew, together with the experiences of ground support staff, as time permits. We would welcome further contributions of memories and memorabilia. For further information please see how to Donate Material.


2nd Lt Richard 'Bud' Heyne USAAF

In August 2020 the Centre received material relating to 2nd Lt Richard Heyne USAAF, letters include 82 wartime letters from Lt Heyne to his family covering his initial and flight training at various USAAF bases in the USA, and his deployment as a fighter pilot in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO) until his death in action on 29 October 1944 on a raid over Landau, Germany.

Air Commodore John Ellacombe DFC

John Ellacombe was born in Northern Rhodesia and was recruited to the RAF in Capetown, 1939. He Flew Hurricane Fighters and Later Mosquitos. He was awarded a DFC on the 7 April 1942 and a Bar to his DFC on 29 December 1944.

Arthur Adcock W.O. RAF

W.O. A Adcock RAF

Arthur Adcock was born in December 1924 in Newcastle upon Tyne. His family were originally from the Leeds area, and they returned to live there while Arthur was still a young child. He attended elementary school in Hunslet and then went on to Cockburn High School in Beeston, Leeds.

Denis Peto-Shepherd - Sqn Ldr RAF

Born in October 1920, Denis attended Downsend Preparatory School in Leatherhead, Surrey and the Oratory Public School in Reading, before joining the R.A.F. From the acting rank of Flight Lieutenant in August 1943, Denis was promoted to Squadron Leader in September 1944. His flying log books bear witness to the unrelenting nature of the bombing operations, particularly from July to September 1944

Derek Foster - Telegraphist/Air Gunner FAA

From the age of sixteen in 1940, Derek Foster took the first step towards playing his part in the war by joining the Air Training Corps....

Ernie Reynolds WO RAF

Ernie Reynolds was born in 1925. He left school at 14 to start work at Furnace Shipyard, Middlesbrough. At 10 AGS Walney Island (Air Gunner School), Barrow in Furness, Ernie started to fly.....

Frederick E Webb - RAF Sqn Ldr

Frederick Webb RAF

SQUADRON LEADER FREDERICK E WEBB – RAF PILOT, AND HIS WIFE (LACW) PHYLLIS WEBB – WAAF DRIVER   Frederick (Freddie) Webb was born in London in 1924 and grew up in the Croydon area.  From a young age he had a keen interest in flying, and was one of the earliest members of 66 Squadron (Selsdon) Air Defence Cadet Corps. On leaving school he became a trainee draughtsman and joined the RAF a

Freydis Sharland (Nee Leaf) - ATA Pilot

Freydis Sharland (nee Leaf) was born and raised in Cambridge attending Wykham Abbey School. She became an ATA Pilot flying many RAF aircraft.

Ron Fairburn - F/O RAF

Ron throwing snowballs, Waddington Winter 1943/44

Ron was born 1923 in Leeds. His father was a maintenance engineer at Leeds Steelworks and Ron's first job when he left school at fourteen was in a gent's outfitters. In the winter of 1941 Ron applied to join the RAF as he was keen to fly and had been interested by the development of the airships pre-war. He was sent to Cardington for assessment: he joined , and commenced training as a flight mech

Stan Hope - W.O. RAF

..first one engine failed over Austria and then the other started to show signs of failure over Belgium. Stan was ordered to bail out, having never parachuted before....

Thomas North - Corporal - RAF.

Cpl Thomas North

Thomas North was born in 1924 and joined the RAF for training in Blackpool and Scotland before his posting to Burma.