Book collection of lifelong RAF Hornchurch enthusiast donated to Hornchurch Aerodrome Historical Trust
- Credit: Archant
The book collection of a grandfather who used to quiz RAF Hornchurch pilots as a boy during WWII, will become part of the reference library at the soon to open Hornchurch Aerodrome Historical Trust (HAHT) Heritage Centre.
Rainham resident Brenda Griffiths donated more than 100 military and aviation related books to the HAHT that belonged to her late husband, Colin Griffiths, who had a lifelong interest in the world wars and the RAF.
“He was seven years old when the war started,” says Brenda, aged 70.
“He lived in Harrow Lodge Park which is not far from the Good Intent pub [which is near the airfield] and he would cycle through to watch the planes take-off and talk to the pilots and engineers.”
“He would have talked about anything and everything,” she goes on to say. “It would have been anything to do with mechanics and aeroplanes.”
A retired gas-fitter who completed his national service in the RAF and whose father was a RAF military policeman during WWII, Colin passed away in 2018 aged 86. Brenda believes these childhood trips cemented Colin’s interest in military aviation, which “never left him”.
Brenda and Colin have four daughters, four grandsons and a granddaughter, and Brenda says the family shares Colin’s interest.
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In particular, their youngest grandchild, a boy aged eight, is fascinated by anything aircraft-related and loves spitfires. “His grandfather’s legacy has carried on to him in a big way,” she adds.
HAHT Trustee Paul Manning says the donated books will become part of the reference library at the HAHT Heritage Centre, which is due to open soon, although the date remains unconfirmed.
The centre will be housed in two former nurses’ cottages on Suttons Lane at the old St George’s Hospital site.
Other donations include uniforms, medals, ration books, gramophones, radios, three Anderson Bomb Shelters and the cast iron head of a dropped bomb that used to live at the Good Intent pub.
Paul says many of the donated items, like Colin’s book collection, have personal stories attached and speak of the rich history in the area. “We’ve spoken to many older people who have stories of how the airfield impacted their lives,” he says.
RAF Hornchurch played a key role in protecting London during the world wars.
Paul says the airfield’s history is becoming lost to the younger generations who often see the site as just a park.
“Many people don’t know what was there previously unless they have contact with the older generation,” he says.
“The war [WWII] wasn’t fought in some far-off place, or in France or Germany. It was fought here, above our heads.”