The Centre was established as a Company limited by guarantee (No. 3613847) in 1998 and registered as a Charity (No. 1072965) in December of 1999

The Centre started out in office premises at 6-8 York Place in the centre of Leeds. The formal launch took place at Leeds Civic Hall in September 1999 (to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War) in the presence of the Lord Mayor of Leeds. Patrons, Trustees and Staff were joined by senior representatives from Embassies and High Commissions, Friends of the Centre, and representatives of Old Comrades Associations, all of whom were warm in their endorsement of the Centre’s vision. Guests were treated to the music of a Big Band, a buffet and a specially-produced exhibition which presented ten case studies of material from the Centre.

The importance of the Centre’s role was further evidenced by the gracious visit of HRH The Prince of Wales in February 2001.

His Royal Highness was introduced to Patrons, Trustees, Staff, volunteers and veterans as well as being shown the Second World War artwork of Peter Peel and Denis Swinney and sets of documents from the Centre’s archive, selected because of their appropriateness to the occasion, including pictures of HM King George VI being introduced to the BBC War Correspondent, Godfrey Talbot, and HM Queen Elizabeth visiting Hatfield House to see patients who were undergoing physiotherapy to aid recovery. Russian convoy photographs, Arnhem material and documentation of the courage of a lifeboat survivor, clearly held the interest of the Prince, who himself picked up an issue of the Centre’s journal, Everyone’s War, and browsed through it, before signing the Visitors’ book and heading to a reception organised by the Centre in his honour. At the reception His Royal Highness spoke of his admiration for what was being done, of his real interest in the Centre and of his hopes for its future. He asked if he might be kept informed of progress and affirmed that he would like to help. This visit was followed up by a generous gesture of financial support from The Prince of Wales Charitable Foundation.

Registered Museum
By late 2001, the Centre had become a victim of its own success with the collection having grown so much that there was no more room for expansion at our York Place office. In January 2002, we moved to more spacious premises in Horsforth, North Leeds. It was appropriately on the anniversary of the Dambusters’ Raid, on 16th May, that our distinguished Patron, The Rt Hon The Earl Jellicoe, formally opened the new premises in the company of sixty guests, all of whom were lucky enough to enjoy a special exhibition featuring just a small percentage of the 3,700 case studies which comprised the Centre’s growing collections at that stage.

The move to new premises enabled us to work towards our next goal – that of Museum Registered Status – and Full Registered Status was achieved in February 2003. All at the Centre were greatly encouraged by the good news which came from Resource: The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries. The Museum Registration Scheme was established over ten years ago and has become a quality standard for museums, setting minimum standards in collection care, public services and museum management. The achievement of Full Registered Museum status was the result of a lot of hard work in terms of improving the Centre’s systems of archival care and management to meet the standards required by Resource and the Centre is proud to be a Registered Museum.

On to Walton

A further move in 2008 to our current premises at Walton, Near Wetherby meant we bade a sad farewell to some of our local volunteers whose assistance had been so necessary in support of accessioning and researchand a part of our history. New volunteers have come forward both from the local community and further afield and happily we soon restored our level of activity inside the Centre. The additional space means we can accommodate more material and researchers and our library has a home where ( almost) all the books can be immediately accessible.