Eighty years since it was built as a nerve centre of operations against Nazi Germany, the Yorkshire Air Museum’s wartime airfield control tower at Elvington is badly in need of restoration. The museum aims to raise £100,000 to help save it.

The Grade 2 listed building is at the heart of the museum, which also acts as the Allied Air Forces Memorial.

The air museum’s Chair of Trustees Rachel Semlyen said the control tower had originally been rescued and restored in the 1980s, when the museum was created.

“But during lockdown, we commissioned a survey of the tower,” she said. “The roof and windows (had) been leaking for some time. Early in 2022 we repaired the roof, the rusted iron balustrade, the gutters and the staircases. But to complete this specialist restoration work and prevent further decay, we still need to find more than £200,000 – of which the museum can only afford half.”

Restoring the tower doesn’t come cheap because, as a listed building, it must be restored like-for-like. There are 22 original windows dating back to 1942, with eight panes of glass each. That’s 176 frames, each needing to be restored or recreated. Old rendering has to be removed to allow the building to be resealed with a lime render, Rachel added. “The interior walls, now dried out after the years of water ingress, are to be scraped down and repainted.”

It is a building that deserves such care and attention, however.

It was from here that the RAF Elvington bomber pilots who flew hazardous missions against Nazi Germany received their instructions for take off and landing from wireless operators. From the tower’s roof the WAAFs recorded the cloud base and weather conditions. Blackboards inside, meanwhile, recorded the safe return or otherwise of the crews.

Almost half the crews never returned. On just one night - January 28, 1944 - four crews, a total of 28 men, did not come back. All had been photographed with mugs of tea before setting off.

Very few wartime control towers remain untouched, Rachel says. So this really is a special building...

Visit yorkshireairmuseum.org to make a donation, or email appeal@yorkshireairmuseum.org for more information.