Today Harwell Campus will honour its, and the Nation’s, past, and the memories of those who served on the site during the Second World War, when it was a Royal Air Force Station – RAF Harwell. In 1944 Harwell played a major role in the plans and preparations for the invasion of occupied France. Rehearsals for D-Day included participating in mass paratrooper drops and glider tows – an essential part of the war effort.
The commemorative event will pay tribute to the members of 38 Group RAF, 6th Airborne Division and the Glider Pilot Regiment who were all stationed at RAF Harwell. These were amongst the first to participate in Operation Overlord, beginning to depart from RAF Harwell on the eve of D-Day; Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle planes carried Pathfinder Paratroopers who illuminated Drop Zones, and Airspeed Horsa gliders, which carried advanced pre-landing forces from 6th Airborne Division.
200 guests will gather on the Campus, including veterans who served in World War Two, members of the current 38 Group RAF, Oxfordshire Air Cadets, The Royal British Legion, Wantage Royal Naval Association, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry Association as well as Tim Stevenson, Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, historical societies and people working on the Campus.
The four-hour commemorative event will comprise a vintage military vehicle display, including one with the RAF Harwell livery of the time a fly-past of four vintage aircraft from The Historic Army Aircraft Flight, Middle Wallop. A speech from the Lord Lieutenant will be followed by talks from historian and published author Steve Wright, and Don Summer, who will focus on D-Day and the role that Harwell took in the D-D Landings.
Readings at the Harwell Memorial Stone will be followed by a wreath laying ceremony lead by Lieutenant Colonel Cliff Dare, MBE, a Royal Marine Reservist, and Chief Operating Officer and Head of Real Estate at Harwell Campus.
Commenting on the importance of the occasion Angus Horner, Partner and Director of Harwell Campus said: “The Harwell of today owes its legacy to all the men and women who served, and those who gave their lives, during the war. Today we are a community of 6,000 people, representing over 60 nationalities, working together for the greater good of mankind. It is only right and fitting that we should honour those whose sacrifices paved the way for this truly international collaboration.”