The battle isn’t yet over for RAF club
A LAST ditch attempt is being made to save an RAF club next to the base where the Battle of Britain was once coordinated.
In the 100th anniversary year of the RAF, the Battle of Britain Club in Uxbridge will close when its lease is handed back to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in order to clear the club’s outstanding debts.
Ironically the date for the handover is July 9 – the day before the anniversary of the beginning of the historic air battle - on July 10 1940.
The club, which consists of two prefabricated Nissen huts, has been open for 71 years and lies near to the Battle of Britain bunker at RAF Uxbridge from where the epic battle was marshalled.
Alan Wright, who is chairman of the club, is now desperately searching for a last-minute sponsor or investors who can plough some cash in to save the iconic club, and members have started a petition calling on the RAF Association – which holds the lease – to give the club one more chance.
Mr Wright said: “It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I have to let everyone know of the great possibility that the Battle of Britain Club Uxbridge may have to close its doors for the final time on the July 9 2018.
“The Royal Air Force Association headquarters in Leicester has come to the conclusion that this historic club is no longer viable due to insurmountable debts and the dilapidated condition of the building, despite finally starting to see a slight profit, but seemingly all too late.”
It is understood the club had not been billed for its rent for 16 years and so had not paid. The MOD billed the club earlier this year for the outstanding £160,000 but can only claim £60,000 as it can only claim debts going back six years.
Mr Wright says that he thinks faults lie on both sides for allowing the debts to build up. He says past club committees lacked the “guidance” to be able to make progress in paying off creditors.
He adds that most of the debts are now clear apart from the outstanding amount on the lease which the club had hoped RAFA would be willing to renegotiate.
But RAFA says handing the lease back to the MOD is the “only viable solution”.
Ailsa Gough, area director south east and eastern at RAFA, said: “The Battle of Britain Club is run on behalf of the club committee by a management company. 2017 financial reports, prepared by that company, clearly show significant longterm debts and an operating loss for the year. These financial difficulties mean that ongoing costs, including those necessary to bring the premises up to appropriate standards, to pay monthly rent and to clear debts cannot be covered by the club.
“The only viable course of action is for the surrender of the lease to the landlord and the management company has been given notice.”
She added: “We are in regular contact with our Uxbridge branch and are supporting them to find alternative premises for their meetings, so they can continue to support members of the RAF family in their area.” Mr Wright paid tribute to the club’s management company, Arizona, and the “continued support from its directors” which he says has allowed the club to keep going up to now.
He is also appealing for visitors to the newly re-eopened Battle of Britain bunker visitor attraction at the former neighbouring RAF Uxbridge site, to visit the club to socialise and help boost its revenue.
He said: “I appeal for the support of the members, the local community and wider for this fight in the hope we can save the club and keep this vital part of local history and a facility that is popular and vital to the local community going for many more years.”
“We welcome any assistance or support from the local council, residents and trades people, to save this iconic club and much needed community asset.
The Battle of Britain Club was founded on the present site in early 1947 and officially opened its doors on September 8 1951.
The Nissen huts, which originally formed part of a US Air Force field Hospital in Prestwick, Scotland, from where they were transported to Uxbridge.
The huts are home to the RAFA Uxbridge branch, and the Battle of Britain Club. The club is used by a number of community groups.
The club and branch have a membership of approximately 521, some of whom are RAF veterans.
You can sign the petition to keep the club open at www.change.org.