OPEN LETTER FROM OUR PATRON, RANDOLPH CHURCHILL, TO THE ROYAL AIR FORCE COMMUNITY. RANDOLPH’S GREAT-GRANDFATHER LED THE PUBLIC CAMPAIGN TO BUILD THE CHAPEL WHICH OPENED IN 1951
View the letter circulated on the 3rd October 2017 here
CONSTRUCTION WORKS TO CONSERVE ST GEORGE'S RAF CHAPEL OF REMEMBRANCE AND BUILD THE NEW BIGGIN HILL MEMORIAL MUSEUM COMMENCED ON MONDAY 18TH SEPTEMBER 2017
View our latest press release here
Biggin Hill Memorial Museum secures star object donation from Biggin Hill veteran
View our latest press release here
Chapel Closure for Regular Visiting Hours
September 2017 - From Friday 1st of September, St George's Chapel will be closed for regular visiting hours ahead of museum construction works starting in September. You can still visit the Chapel during one of the upcoming events:
On Sunday 17th of September at 10:30am there will be the annual Battle of Britain service.
On Sunday 12th of November from 12-3pm the Chapel will be open for Remembrance Sunday visits.
August 2017 - We are seeking support to fund the museum's learning space and memorial wall to Biggin Hill's wartime communities. See below on how you can contribute:
To donate, send a cheque payable to ‘Biggin Hill Memorial Museum Trust’ to c/o St George’s RAF Chapel of Remembrance, Main Road, Biggin Hill, TN16 3EJ or visit https://www.justgiving.com/bigginhill-memorialmuseum
Biggin Hill Memorial Museum receives planning permission
May 2017 - Biggin Hill Memorial Museum was granted planning permission at the end of April 2017. Read the full press release here.
MoD hands ownership of St George's Chapel to Bromley Council
January 2017 - The Ministry of Defence has handed over ownership of the historic St George’s RAF Chapel of Remembrance, Biggin Hill to the London Borough of Bromley. Bromley Council will continue the ongoing work to develop the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum scheme in partnership with the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum Trust. The transfer coincides with RAF Biggin Hill’s official opening 100 years ago. RAF Biggin Hill closed in 1992, but the MoD retained ownership of the Chapel site until this year, overseeing it through RAF Northolt as the nearest RAF station.
HM Treasury awards the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum another £1m
November 2016 - Biggin Hill Memorial Museum Trust is pleased to announce that a further £1m has been awarded to the project by the Treasury through the Libor fund. This is the second grant from the Treasury towards the planned Biggin Hill Memorial Museum project which will safeguard the future of St George’s RAF Chapel of Remembrance. The grant was announced in the autumn 2016 statement. These funds are invaluable to the development of the museum.
Biggin Hill Memorial Museum wins National Lottery Support
October 2016 - The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded a stage one pass for a grant of almost £2m towards the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum project. The unanimous award decision was made by the HLF’s London committee.
Bromley Council will now develop the project detail further, in partnership with the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum Trust, and submit these detailed plans to the HLF’s London committee for final agreement in June 2017. The project architect is Robin Lee Architecture, and the exhibition designer is Redman Design.
Cllr Stephen Carr, Leader of Bromley Council, said: “There has been a long standing wish to safeguard Biggin Hill’s Second World War heritage through the building of a museum. In partnership with the Trust, the Council will continue to work with like-minded groups and individuals to realise this important project.”
See the full press release here.
Biggin Hill Memorial Museum Trust Away Day
September 2016 - Trustees were welcomed at Bentley Priory Museum to see the museum galleries, collections and facilities. Wing Commander Erica Ferguson RAF showed the group around the site. The visit gave the trustees the opportunity to hear about the renovation work at Bentley Priory and meet the team involved in developing the museum.
Biggin Hill: Experiences of war
September 2016 - A screening of some of the film histories recorded as part of the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum Project were screened at the Imperial War Museum London. The screening was introduced by Diane Lees, Director-General of the Imperial War Museum and Randolph Churchill, the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum Trust's patron.
The film showed a number of people speaking about their experiences of serving and living in Biggin Hill during the Second World War.
Chapel Open Day- Wednesday 16th August 2016
August 2016 - On 16th August, another Open Day was held at St George's Chapel in Biggin Hill to show the progress of the project and give residents an opportunity to give feedback about the ideas for museum's building and exhibition design. The event was well attended by people who viewed ideas for the designs and spoke with the architect team, exhibition designer and museum development manager.
'One of the Few’ Memorial Service to Sgt Stefan Wójtowicz (1919-1940) - Sunday 19 June 2016
On Wednesday 11 September 1940, 21-year old Sgt. Stefan Wójtowicz of 303 Kościuszko Squadron was engaged in a furious dogfight over the North Downs near Westerham, three miles south of Biggin Hill. After shooting down one Messerschmitt Bf 109E and probably destroying another, he found himself outnumbered and hit. His Hurricane 1, V7242 RF-B, crashed in flames on the hillside, killing him instantly.
On Sunday 19 June 2016 a short service, conducted by Father Ivan Aquilina, dedicated a new memorial to Sgt Wójtowicz near where he died. Members of his family travelled from Poland and from around the UK. Family members of Stefan’s English girlfriend, who later married and raised her children to remember Stefan, also attended. Two of the grandchildren were named Stephen and Stephanie. Stephanie was there with her husband, an RAF Reserve Corporal, based at Northolt, Stefan's base.
John Kaye of the Polish War Memorial Trust opened the service on a poignant day. This would have been Stefan’s birthday. The Act of Remembrance was led by Henry Warde. A Colour Party from2427 (Biggin Hill) Squadron ATC, led by Flying Officer Rob SmithRAFVR, presented the Wilno Polish Air Force Standard and the Last Post was played by Cadet Flight Sgt Will Green.
During the service, retired Wing Commander, Mike Render, one of three Trustees of the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum to attend the ceremony, read the moving poem “Impressions of a Pilot”, by Gary Claud Stoker:
Flight is freedom in its purest form,
To dance with the clouds which follow a storm;
To roll and glide, to wheel and spin,
To feel the joy that swells within:
To leave the earth with its troubles and fly,
And know the warmth of a clear spring sky;
Then back to earth at the end of a day,
Released from the tensions which melted away.
Should my end come while I am in flight,
Whether brightest day or darkest night;
Spare me your pity and shrug off the pain,
Secure in the knowledge that I’d do it again;
For each of us is created to die,
And within me I know,
I was born to fly.
The story of Stefan is that of a young man from a small village in South East Poland, who was serving as a fighter pilot in the Polish Air Force when Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. Stefan escaped to France and then to England to continue the fight to free his country. Stefan was born on the 19th June 1919 at Wypicha in the Lublin region, son of Stanislaw and Weronika, nee Pejta. His sister still lives in the village, where there is a memorial to him.
In 1936 Stefan joined the Air Force NCO School for Minors in Bydgoszcz and graduated from Krosno in 1939 as a fighter pilot. On 1 July 1939 he received posting to the 111th Fighter Squadron of the 1st Air Regiment in Warsaw. Stefan then took part in the Polish air campaign against the German Army and Luftwaffe. After the Polish Army’s defeat, he crossed the Romanian border at Sniatyn on the 18 September 1939, determined to carry on the fight against Nazi Germany. He reached France, where in the spring of 1940 he was posted to the unit of Capt Kuzian defending Nantes.
After the fall of France Stefan was evacuated to Britain where he received the service number P-5024. On the 2 August he was posted to 303 Squadron of the Polish Air Force, based at Northolt whose aircraft carried the same Kościuszko badge as 111th Squadron in Poland. The Battle of Britain had begun and the squadron’s first official combat flight was on 31 August 1940. The 303 Kościuszko squadron was legendary. It became the highest scoring squadron of the Battle of Britain with 110 confirmed kills, nine probable and six damaged.
Stefan’s battle was short and eventful. On the 3 September 1940 his Hurricane 1, R2688 RF-F, was damaged in combat. He force-landed the aircraft near Woodchurch and was slightly wounded. On 7 September he shot down two Dornier 17 bombers. Four days later occurred the air battle which tragically took his life. Stefan was buried in Northwood Cemetery, Middlesex and is commemorated on the Polish Air Force Memorial at Northolt. For his huge bravery, Stefan was decorated with the Silver Cross of the Virtuti Militari no. 8816.
Stefan’s memorial replaces two previous plaques that had been stolen. Beata Podolska, Stefan’s great niece and Nina Britton Boyle unveiled the new memorial. It depicts the 303 Kościuszko Squadron badge and contains the words:
Sgt Stefan Wójtowicz
“One of the Few”
He bravely fought 6 Ms 109s destroying 1 and 1 probable before he was shot down nearby on 11.9.1940. Aged 21.
“On our wings
Sing the wind of liberty”
Za naszq I waszq wolność
(For Our Freedom and Yours)
The quotation, “On our wings sing the winds of liberty” comes from the second verse of the 303 Squadron song:
‘On our wings shine Polish emblems,
On our wings sing the winds of liberty,
Like a tune of the free – we sail over the earth,
To pound into dust that bed of crime and evil.’
For Stefan’s family this was ‘especially poignant in regard to Stefan’s life and his incredible bravery and its lovely connection to his comrades in arms.’
After the service, the Polish visitors accompanied Museum Trustees Mike Render and Sharon Millar to St. George’s Chapel and paid their respects to the Polish flag and to the memory of the Polish pilots whose names adorn on the reredos.
Read more about this
The Polish Pilots who flew in the Battle of Britain
303 Kościuszko Squadron
Serenade for the Few - 21st May 2016
Just Voices A Cappella Singers put on a concert in support of the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum Trust at St George's Chapel. The event was well attended and raised over £1000 for the project.
Consecration of St George's Memorial Gardens - 23rd April 2016
The Chapel's memorial gardens were consecrated by the Bishop of Rochester after the St George's Day service. The event was well attended by the Chapel's congregation and the local community.
Show and Tell Open Day - 18th March 2016
The Biggin Hill Memorial Museum hosted a ‘show and tell day’. Members of the local community and beyond were invited to ‘show and tell’ their stories and objects. The event was a huge success attended by over 80 visitors, members of the Trust and museum project team.
Trustees were also on hand to meet visitors and to share information and updates on the project. The day was topped off with the arrival of a vintage RAF vehicle.
Aperfield WI Meeting - 9th March 2016
Trustee Sharon Millar and Museum Development Manager, Jemma Johnson-Davey were welcomed by the Aperfield WI group in Biggin Hill. Attended by over 80 WI members, Sharon and Jemma gave the group an update on the project. The team are hoping to return next year to give a fuller presentation.
Westerham U3A Meeting - 10th March 2016
The team attended U3A meeting in Westerham to hear Clare Walker’s talk: The Spitfire women of WWII. Trustees Mike Render, Sharon Millar, Colin Hitchins and Museum Development Manager, Jemma Johnson-Davey introduced themselves and the museum project to the 200 delegates.
Networking meeting - 11th March 2016
Trustees Cllr Benington, Mike Render, Sharon Millar and Colin Hitchins joined Museum Development Manager, Jemma Johnson-Davey in meeting with Director of Compton Verney, Dr Steven Parissien at the Chapel. Steven has managed the site for nearly five years and has developed fundraising campaigns and overseen redevelopments at the site. The Trust were pleased to meet Steven, hear about his experiences and share project ideas.