RAF Benson News

Sharland Hall community facility officially opened

On what would have been Mrs Freydis Sharland’s 101st birthday, the Station Commander officially opened Sharland Hall, our newly refurbished community facility.

Sharland Hall is at the heart of our domestic site and is available to our whole community for work and social events and activities.  The hall was named in honour of Mrs Freydis Sharland, who challenged gender equality and inspired future generations as a pioneering female pilot.  In 1943, she joined the Air Transport Auxiliary and by the end of the Second World War had amassed over 600 flying hours on a wide variety of aircraft, although the Spitfire was a firm favourite.

Freydis Sharland in her RAF uniform complete with Wings
Freydis Sharland

In 1949, Freydis commissioned into the Women’s RAF Volunteer Reserve and during her 5-year commission she became one of the first five women to qualify as a pilot in the Royal Air Force, being awarded her Wings in the early 1950s.  Her love of flying stayed with her throughout her life and even when retired she settled near to RAF Benson airfield as a well-loved member of the local community.

Today’s event officially opened Sharland Hall for use, with members of the team in attendance who had helped to refurbish a tired old building into a vibrant, welcoming facility.  Our thanks go to Ancala who volunteered their time and resources to help with several aspects of the project.

Chief Technician Paula Cil, who coordinated the refurbishment project, said, “This has been a huge project but we’re really pleased that Sharland Hall is now open for use. It’s fantastic that we could coincide the opening with what would have been Freydis Sharland’s 101st birthday.  She pioneered the way for future generations and it’s an honour to be able to open this facility.”

Freydis Sharland at the controls of an aircraft
Freydis in the cockpit of an aircraft, circa 1954.

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