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Guest Column: We are rightly proud of Nottinghamshire’s RAF links

Coun Kay Cutts, Nottinghamshire County Council leader
Coun Kay Cutts, Nottinghamshire County Council leader

The Royal Air Force marks its centenary this year, so it seems an opportune time to reflect on some of Nottinghamshire’s many connections with this great British institution.

Only last week I was in Hucknall for the opening of a new road, funded by the county council and Rolls-Royce, which connects the Rolls-Royce plant to the Hucknall bypass and opens up land for new housing and employment land at Harrier Park.

Harrier Park has been given its name because of the site’s links to the Harrier jump jet.

Hucknall Rolls-Royce engineers also played a vital role in developing the Merlin engine that powered the Spitfire aircraft.

In fact, Hucknall’s links to the RAF go back to the very beginning and its predecessor, the Royal Flying Corps, with Hucknall Aerodrome serving as a training base.

There have been ten RAF bases in this county at one time or another, with many, such as Worksop, established during World War Two. The former RAF base at Winthorpe is now home to Newark Air Museum.

Another, perhaps less well known link with the RAF is Nottinghamshire-born composer, Eric Coates, who composed a huge range of popular music including TV and radio themes such as Desert Island Discs.

He is, perhaps, best known though for composing the famous theme to the 1955 film, The Dambusters.

Nottinghamshire was also home to one of the country’s most famous early fighter pilots, Captain Albert Ball.

He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for single-handedly taking on and destroying scores of enemy aircraft in World War One, before he was killed when he crashed in France in 1917, aged just 20.

Captain Ball is one of six Nottinghamshire-born men who received the Victoria Cross for their outstanding bravery during World War One and they all will be honoured in a special exhibition about them which will tour the county from this summer.