Harwell Campus, one of the UK’ most important science and innovation hub, will honour its, and the Nation’s, past, and the memories of those who served on the site during the Second World War, when it was a Royal Air Force Station – RAF Harwell.
Today is the 75th anniversary of Operation Overlord. the codename for the Battle of Normandy, the Allied operation that launched the successful invasion of German-occupied Western Europe during World War II. The operation was launched on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings (Operation Neptune, commonly known as D-Day). A 1,200-plane airborne assault preceded an amphibious assault involving more than 5,000 vessels. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on 6 June, and more than two million Allied troops were in France by the end of August.
In 1944, Harwell played a major role in the plans and preparations for the invasion of occupied France. Rehearsal’s for D-Day included participating in mass paratrooper drops and glider tows – an essential part of the war effort.
The commemorative event will pay tribute to the members of 38 Group RAF, 6th Airborne Division and the Glider Pilot Regiment who were all stationed at RAF Harwell. These were amongst the first to participate in Operation Overlord, beginning to depart from RAF Harwell on the eve of D-Day; Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle planes carried Pathfinder Paratroopers who illuminated Drop Zones, and Airspeed Horsa gliders which carried advanced pre-landing forces from 6th Airborne Division.
200 guests will gather on the Campus, including veterans who served in World War Two, members of the current 38 Group RAF, Oxfordshire Air Cadets, The Royal British Legion, Wantage Royal Naval Association, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry Association as well as Tim Stevenson, Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, historical societies and people working on the Campus.
The four-hour commemorative event will comprise:
Vintage military vehicles display, including one with the RAF Harwell livery of the time. Including: 1942 Dodge WC 51; 1940 Phillips Heavy Duty Bike; 1944 Ford Jeep; BSA M20 motorcycle; 1944 GMC; 1944 Willys Jeep. A Fly-past of four vintage aircraft from The Historic Army Aircraft Flight, Middle Wallop: Beaver XP820: The Auster Mk9; Augusta Bell Sioux AH Mk1: Scout XT626.
A speech from the Lord Lieutenant will be followed by talks from historian and published author Steve Wright and Don Summer, who will focus on D-Day and the role that Harwell took in the D-D Landings.
This will be followed by a wreath laying ceremony lead by Lieutenant Colonel Cliff Dare, MBE, Royal Marine Reservist, and Chief Operating Officer and Head of Real Estate at Harwell Campus and national economic growth.
Harwell has evolved over the last 75 years and is now home to Europe’s largest collection of open access scientific facilities, worth over £2billion. With 6,000 people working across 250 organisations, it continues to grow at pace. As the UK’s centre for scientific research and pioneering technology in the fields of life sciences, energy and space, Harwell attracts organisations looking to benefit from the brilliant minds, world class science and beautiful location of this unique UK asset.
With an estimated Gross Value Added of more than £1billion, Harwell has successfully evolved from an historically significant RAF base to a UK powerhouse, fuelling job creation.