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Yorkshire Air Museum Central To Major Anglo French Diplomatic Event In Paris
AVRO 504 with the Central Band of the Royal Air Force and Band of the Armée de l'Air. Photo by YAM - Neill Watson
Over the weekend of Thursday 24th May to Monday 28th, the Allied Air Forces Memorial achieved something quite extraordinary in the heart of Paris by co-coordinating a major diplomatic event between the Royal Air Force and the French Armée de l’Air and the British Embassy in Paris. The concept for this event was to celebrate over 100 years of cooperation between the Air Forces of Britain and France, recognising that the Royal Air Force was in fact ‘born’ on the fields of France at St. Omer, on 1st April 1918.

At the request of the Royal Air Force, the Museum pledged an example of a WWI AVRO 504 bi-plane and an exhibition stand to be transported to the heart of Paris to l’Hotel des Invalides, the 17th century Cathedral, hospital, Museum of Armouries, galleries and courtyard. It is the home to Napoleon’s tomb and the venue for many French occasions of State and a hugely impressive location to stage this historic celebration of cooperation.

The Museum suggested the support of colleagues at the Conservatoire de l’Air et de l’Espace d’Aquitaine, Bordeaux, who agreed to provide their WWI SPAD VII, to join our AVRO 504.

As momentum grew, the air forces both enlisted their senior marching bands to participate in the ceremony. As the significance of the occasion was fully realised, the event provided an ideal opportunity for an historic joint announcement by Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier KCB CBE DFC ADC MA RAF, Chief of the Air Staff, and his French counterpart Général André Lanata (who is a Vice President of the Allied Air Forces Memorial) reinforcing the ongoing cooperation of strategic operations between the RAF and the Armée de l’Air.

Museum Director, Ian Reed ONM FRAeS, commented

"This was an unprecedented occasion and the first time that a UK museum, indeed any Museum, has undertaken a display of this kind in perhaps the most prestigious location in France, where many occasions of State take place. We are very privileged to be asked by the Royal Air Force to assist in bringing to fruition this unique celebration of over 100 years of co-operation between the two country's air forces, especially in this year of RAF100. The ties which bind our two countries remain strong, even as “Brexit” looms, and will remain so into the future, as announced here on Friday 25th May by the heads of the British and French Air Forces.”

During his address, Air Chief Marshal Stephen Hillier commented

“…. of all the visits I am making this year to mark the centenary of the RAF, the one with the greatest historical significance is my visit to France.”

Yorkshire Air Museum Central To Major Anglo French Diplomatic Event In Paris, 31st May 2018, 7:19 AM