A new museum display put together by two young history enthusiasts is now being exhibited at Leeds City Museum, as part of commemorations for the centenary of the RAF.
This display celebrates the heroic efforts of local Yorkshire RAF servicemen, who bravely took to the skies during the harsh air battles of the First World War.
Joe Enright, 18, and Callum Clarke, 19, are both members of the young curators group named The Preservative Party. Together they trawled through archives and records in order to uncover the wartime stories behind a fascinating collection of photos and medals, which are now on display at Leeds City Museum.
One of the airmen featured in this display is William Rowland Ding, a test pilot for the Blackburn Aircraft Co, who became known around Leeds by those who would gather to see him fly over Roundhay Park.
He was tragically killed during a routine test flight at Oakwood on May 12 1917 and last year a plaque in his honour was unveiled in Oakwood last year, along with a memorial propeller being on display in the museum’s Leeds Story Gallery.
Chapeltown-born Philip Leslie Holmes, who enlisted in 1909 and served with the Dorset Regiment, Yorkshire and Lancaster Regiment and flew in the Royal Naval Air Service, will also be commemorated in this display.
Holmes was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Allied Victory Medal and the British War Medal for his efforts during the war, the latter of these medals now being on display at the museum for the very first time.
The display will also feature many other local RAF servicemen, who all contributed valiantly during the war effort, even though the life of a First World War airman was dangerous and unpredictable, the average life expectancy of a pilot being just 17 hours of flying time.
Leeds Museums and Galleries’ project curator, Lucy Moore, explains that “those who signed up to fly were more often average men from normal backgrounds who showed unimaginable courage and valour to climb into the cockpit and risk their lives day after day”.
Moore continues that “the Preservative Party have done some amazing work to reveal pilots’ remarkable stories and give both themselves and our visitors the opportunity to understand more about who those men were, where they came from and the extraordinary sacrifices they made”.
This fascinating exhibition pays tribute to the local men who valiantly fought in the First World War and who greatly aided in the war effort.
This new First World War RAF display is located at Leeds City Museum on Millennium Square, is open every day apart from Monday and is free to enter.