Chancellor at RAF bunker ahead of restoration
MP is moved by visit to WW2 site
AROUND £4.5m of Hillingdon tax payer’s money and £1m of bankers’ fines will go towards “renovating a vital piece of our history”.
Boris Johnson, MP for Uxbridge & South Ruislip, showed Chancellor George Osbourne how the money would be used to open RAF Uxbridge’s Battle of Britain bunker to the public, during a visit last Thursday (September 10).
The bunker’s operations room was the site from which the RAF coordinated the air defence of London and the South of England during the Second World War, 75 years ago.
Mr Osbourne pledged £1m from his summer budget to help Hillingdon Council meet the target it needed for the restoration work.
The history-steeped bunker gave the Chancellor “tingles in his spine” as he walked down the narrow staircase to where history was made.
He said: “Boris drew my attention to this incredible piece of British history. What’s incredible is that you approach it just under a little hill in Uxbridge and you wouldn’t even know it’s here. When you walk into that room with the board where all the women from the RAF would push their croupier sticks... you’ve seen that room in so many movies and pictures but to actually see it in real life is incredible.”
Mr Osborne explained the £1m he pledged will come from fines paid by city bankers: “Frankly, some of them demonstrated the very worst of British families. I think we should use that money to recognise the incredible sacrifice made by the very best of British families to make our way of life possible.”
Mr Johnson said he is grateful for the commitment of money from the Chancellor and praised the bunker.
He said: “If this place hadn’t worked in 1940 and Britain had folded, then the whole of Europe would have remained under Hitler’s subjugation and we would never have had the liberation of the world.
“Everybody in Uxbridge and those involved will be incredibly grateful for recognising the historic importance of this place.
“This is where Churchill was on August 16 1940 when all day they’d been trying to keep the Germans off and wave after wave of German planes were coming over south Britain and every single plane that they were capable of deploying was in the air.
“It was a truly terrifying moment for the country.”
Speaking at the event, Mr Johnson couldn’t help but joke about his stance on Heathrow Airport.
He said: “Never forget the historic role of this place of in keeping out of the skies of London thousands of unnecessary noisy and disruptive aircraft movements which we would not want to see again!”
Devoted volunteers and public donations have kept the bunker going but it desperately needs renovation following flood damage.
The VIPs were shown around by AC (Retired) Cynthia Fowler, Chair of the Friends of 11 Group Bunker, and Chris Wren of the Friends volunteers and saw the perfectly preserved command centre, original uniforms, artefacts, photos and the chair used by Winston Churchill when he visited the Bunker.
Hillingdon Council leader Ray Puddifoot said: “The council is proud to be the home of the Battle of Britain bunker.
“We are acquiring the bunker and its auxiliary buildings from the Ministry of Defence and investing £4.5m to build a new visitor and exhibition centre above it.
“The support of Boris Johnson MP and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in providing £1m for renovation work on the bunker is very welcome. This is a national asset which will be preserved for current and future generations.”