Short of serving in the Regiment, there simply is no better place to learn about the history and role of the RAF Regiment than the Heritage Centre at RAF Honington. In this blog, the RAF Benevolent Fund's Samantha Budde tells us about her visit to the Centre.
Walking into the Heritage Centre at RAF Honington is a bit like walking into Dr Who's Tardis. The Centre, which looks quite compact from the outside, is massive and brings to life the full service of the Regiment, starting with its precursor days as Armoured Car Companies and Ground Gunners to its activities today.
From an armoured car used in the 1920s in Iraq and Bofors guns and an Otter Light Reconnaissance Car used in the Second World War, to vehicles and equipment used in Operation Herrick, the Heritage Centre guides its visitors through the evolution of the Regiment with amazing artefacts.
And throughout the Centre, the stories of individual Gunners are told, as well. Some of the stories are those of highly decorated Gunners, such as Corporal John Taylor and Sergeant Norman Gerrish. And the bravery of many more Gunners is captured in the Medal Room, where photos, stories, and medal collections bring their service to life.
But other photos and artefacts tell the stories of men like Leading Aircraftman Derek Malden Fitch and Leading Aircraftman Henry Rodgers. Neither decorated nor fêted for their service, both embodied the Regiment motto, Per Ardua, in their service. Fitch served through four gruelling years in the jungles of Burma and fought in the Battle of Meiktila, while Rodgers survived the Battle of Kos, two years in a German Prisoner of War camp, and a forced retreat from advancing Russian forces at the end of the Second World War.
But perhaps most moving of all is the Remembrance Room. The Heritage Centre is working to collect the names of all Gunners who died in service and display their names in the Remembrance Room, giving visitors to the Centre and the families of those who died in service a place to visit and reflect.
The Heritage Centre is, without doubt, a fitting tribute to the Regiment, those who served, and those who continue to serve today.
The RAF Regiment Heritage Centre is within the secured area of RAF Honington. It is open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and visitors must pre-register. To pre-register, please visit the RAF Regiment Association website.