The spiritual home of the Battle of Britain was celebrated yesterday by Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy at the last formal dinner at RAF Bentley Priory.
RAF Bentley Priory, headquarters of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, is due for closure next year. The Priory is regarded by WWII Fighter Command veterans as their 'spiritual home' and played a critical role in saving Britain during the war.
A 'Sunset Ceremony' marked the lowering of the RAF Ensign for the last time. Lord Drayson, Minister for Defence, Equipment and Support, and a host of guests including representatives from the Battle of Britain Fighter Association and the Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust, attended.
RAF Bentley Priory is set to close in spring 2008 following the relocation of all units from the site. This is being taken forward as part of the Ministry of Defence's estate consolidation project for greater London, Project MoD Estates London (Project MoDEL).
Project MoDEL is combining operations from a number of Defence sites in Greater London to RAF Northolt in order to provide a MoD 'anchor site' which will support the delivery of operational requirements and, crucially, will improve the quality of life for servicemen and woman located in the Greater London area.
The MOD is clear about the historical significance of RAF Bentley Priory and is keen to ensure the development of the site takes full account of its heritage. To this end, VSM Estates, the Project MoDEL contractor, is working closely with the MoD, the Local Planning Authority, the Battle of Britain Bentley Priory Trust and the RAF Museum to preserve the heritage elements of the site.
Large elements of RAF Bentley Priory already have statutory protection irrespective of ownership; for example the Priory is Grade II* and its grounds are designated as Historic Parkland.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy said:
"There is obvious sadness that the RAF's Operational use of Bentley Priory is coming to an end. It was identified well before the outbreak of World War II as an ideal location for the Headquarters of Fighter Command by Air Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding. People can rest assured that we will be very careful that the heritage aspects will be preserved for future generations.
"The Priory - and the people who worked there - served the country at a time of vital importance for our nation, and we continue to owe them a debt of gratitude. Our site in Northolt will provide a modern base for a range of RAF functions - and will improve the quality of life for our men and women."
Editor: MOD press office
Photographers: SAC Adam Fletcher and SAC Ryan Onody
Image 1: (Larger size)Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, chats to Air Commodore (Ret) Pete Brothers, Hurricane pilot during the Battle of Britain and Chairman of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association. He was a Flight Commander with 32 and 257 Squadrons during the Battle and scored highly during the Battle and the rest of the Second World War
Image 2: (Larger size) A Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight overflies RAF Bentley Priory during the closure ceremony before Defence Minster Lord Drayson and senior serving and retired members of the Royal Air Force
Image 3: (Larger size)A three-ship formation of Typhoons, the RAF's latest fastjet, from RAF Coningsby overfly the Sunset Ceremony and the ceremonial lowering of the RAF Ensign for the last time at RAF Bentley Priory
Image 4: (Larger size) Taking the Salute - RAF Bentley Priory Station Commander Sqn Ldr Phil Reid, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy and Air Commodore (Ret) Pete Brothers, Chairman of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association
Image 5: (Larger size)Guests attending the RAF Bentley Priory Gala Dinner, gather for photographers on the grand staircase within the listed Priory for the last time
Notes to editors
1. Project MoDEL aims to consolidate a number of facilities occupied by MOD in Greater London onto a fit-for-purpose site thereby generating a number of benefits in terms of a better living and working environment for service and civilian personnel, improved efficiency and consolidating Defence resources. VSM Estates, a consortium of VINCI PLC and St Modwen Properties PLC, have been appointed as the Prime Plus Contractor for Project MoDEL. VSM Estates will be responsible for delivering Project MoDEL through funding and project managing the construction requirements (primarily at RAF Northolt), the relocation of units, and the actual disposal of the surplus sites.
2. Approximately 900 military and civilian personnel from the disposal sites will be directly affected by the move to RAF Northolt where they will join the 900 personnel already there in benefiting from improved accommodation and facilities. The consolidated site will enjoy new offices, new squadron accommodation, single living accommodation, catering facilities, welfare, physical and recreational training areas. Consolidating resources will improve efficiency across the Estate. The redevelopment of RAF Northolt will relocate personnel from 40 units across all three Services.
3. In addition to RAF Bentley Priory Project MoDEL will be disposing of the following sites:
* RAF Uxbridge
* RAF Eastcote (former United States Visiting Forces site)
* RAF West Ruislip (former United States Visiting Forces site)
* Victoria House, Woolwich