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General Denis Mercier named as Yorkshire Air Museum vice-president
THE chief of the French Air Force has been named as the new vice-president of the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington.
Museum bosses have announced that this year’s 67th anniversary of the departure of French Air Force squadrons from the village near York will be marked by the appointment of General Denis Mercier to the role of vice-president of the Allied Air Forces Memorial & Yorkshire Air Museum.
During the Second World War more than 2,500 French airmen were stationed at Elvington, leading to the area being known as “Petit France”.
More than half of their aircrews were killed in action while based there.
Ian Reed, museum director, said: “We are delighted that the new chief of the French Air Force has been appointed our vice-president, further establishing the Anglo-French credentials of Elvington as the Allied Air Forces Memorial.”
According to the museum, the French took off from Elvington for the final time on October 20, 1945, following an official ceremony attended by Air Chief Marshal Sir Norman Bottomley, the head of Bomber Command, who took the salute and addressed the French airman in their native language.
The French veterans formed an association to preserve the bonds formed during the time spent together in Yorkshire and the first job of Les Amicale des Anciens des Groupes Lourds was to build a memorial in Elvington village itself.
In 1947 the idea came up against considerable bureaucracy until former Elvington commander André Puget was appointed as French Air Attaché in London, whereupon he took control of the project. The memorial was eventually unveiled on September 28, 1957.
Since then, the annual Act of Remembrance has taken place at this memorial on Remembrance Sunday, and this year will be the 57th such ceremony. The service takes place at 11am on Sunday, November 11.
For more details, go to yorkshireairmuseum.org
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