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MELKSHAM’S air cadets have launched an ambitious project to document the history of RAF at Bowerhill.
The cadets are planning to produce a short film, a photographic exhibition and other events to highlight the rich history of the site, now known as the Bowerhill Industrial Estate, that was home to RAF Melksham from 1940 to 1965. They also hope to record people’s memories of the RAF at Melksham.
The project has been made possible by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, enabling the 2385 (Melksham) Squadron to spend three years working on the project.
Commanding officer of 2385 Melksham Squadron, flight lieutenant Greg McKay said, “The Bowerhill Industrial Estate is forever changing and with work taking place on the hangers, the squadron wanted to do something to document and capture the history of the RAF here, before it is lost or damaged.
“Not only will this project help the cadets learn new skills, but we feel it will benefit the whole community as it will produce something that can be used by everyone, to learn more about the area’s history. It can also be used for future generations. It’s a very exciting and big project.
“The project has many deliverables including a new squadron badge; the documenting and archiving of old squadron photos that date back to the 50s, which we will share with the Wiltshire Heritage Centre; and the documentation of items related to the squadron’s history.
“We will also be documenting the hangers on the estate, taking photos of all remaining evidence that it used to be an RAF training ground.
“Next summer we will hold an open day for the public and there will be a film crew on site to record people’s memories of RAF Melksham. This could be memories from people who served here, or people who lived in the area at the time. This will provide hours of raw material that will be edited to produce a 30-45 minute film that will become a local history tool.
“There are also plans for a photographic display at the end of the project, where we will partner with a local graphics company to produce a professional display.
“We may also host a property bring and show amnesty, as when the base closed, a lot of items and materials were taken as mementos or souvenirs. We would like to document these items, and if people are willing to return them permanently, use them as part of our display.
“This project will benefit the cadets enormously as the grant allows us to bring in people to offer training on things like photography skills. The cadets will learn skills that could benefit them later in life.”