During WWII over a million men and women from 62 nations around the world served or supported Bomber Command in their fight for freedom.
For the IBCC it is essential that the stories of all of those countries is told within the context of the history of the Command. As a result the team has worked very hard over the last five years establishing partnerships and relationships with a wide range of organisations and institutions across the world.
These organisations have been involved in consulting on the context of the project, have provided resources for inlusion in the exhibition and archive and, in some cases, have been actively involved in recording oral histories and scanning documents, ensuring that the Command’s heritage is preserved.
During the War, Commonwealth nations such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa provided the majority of the international support for Bomber Command. As a result, the team’s first priority was to engage with institutions in these nations.
In 2015, the chairman of the trust, Tony Worth CVO, and the director, Nicky Barr, travelled to Australia and New Zealand to initiate contacts with museums, national archives and associations and to promote the project on a wider scale to Government and military representatives. A whirlwind two-week tour has reaped great rewards, with the Australian War Memorial and the Museum of Transport and Technology (New Zealand) coming on board as partners; volunteer coordinators in both nations being recruited, on a voluntary basis, and contacts made with all the major Squadron Associations, who have since raised money towards the project.
In September of that year, Tony was accompanied by the Head of the IBCC Digital Archive, Professor Heather Hughes, on a ten-day tour of Canada to meet with a range of institutions across the country with an interest in the Command. New relationships were forged with museums and archive repositories as well as the RCAF Association, who have become coordinators for Canadian veteran visits to the site and have been raising both the profile of the project and funds.
The Memorial Spire Unveiling in October 2015 saw official representatives from twelve nations attend and they were accompanied by 312 veterans, the largest gathering of Command veterans since 1946, who had flown in from seven different countries.
In 2016 Professor Hughes travelled to her country of birth, South Africa, to establish contacts with the military, Museum of War and academic institutions. A similarly warm response was given to the project and she was able to combine the visit with recording some oral histories with veterans of the campaign.
Amongst the core tenets of the project is the desire to be able to tell the story of the bombing war from all sides. As a result, Nicky Barr travelled to the Netherlands to secure the support of a number of organisations in telling the story of occupation, the Resistance Movement and Operation Manna. The Dutch Government has since given financial support to the project, provided contacts with veterans and Operation Manna recipients and supported the 70th anniversary commemorations, in Lincoln, for Manna.
The Digital Archive’s technical developer, Alessandro Pesaro, travelled to Italy in early 2016, to engage with universities and museums. As a result of his visit we have recruited nine Italian volunteers who are recording oral histories and scanning documents. The project has also hosted two Italian students on placements within the Archive, which is being viewed as breaking new ground in the preservation of heritage.
In 2016, IBCC volunteer, Peter Schultz, accompanied the project’s curator, Dr Dan Ellin, on a tour of German museums and organisations securing interviewees for the oral history project, sourcing documents for preservation and garnering the support of these institutions.
Work has also been done with the Polish Government and supporting organisations such as the Sikorski Institute and the Polish War Memorial Committee. Nicky and Dan have visited RAF Northolt to discuss the digitisation of the 19,000 Bomber Command records held there. This work is ongoing.
One of the results of this work has been that the project now has in excess of 550 volunteers with representatives from nine different nations and the website and social media has seen followers from sixty-seven different countries.
In the last 18 months visitors from thirteen different countries have visited the IBCC site on free guided tours, all before the project is open!
IBCC PARTNER ORGANISATIONS:
Canadian War Museum
Canadian Warbirds Heritage Museum
Royal Military Museum of Canada
Canadian Bomber Command Memorial Project
Royal Canadian Air Force Association
Australian War Memorial
National Archives of Australia
Qantas Founders Museum
Bomber Command Association Australia
New Zealand Bomber Command Association
Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr
Zentrum für Militärgeschichte und Sozialwissenschaften der Bundeswehr
Gianni Caproni Museum of Aeronautics
Government of the Royal Netherlands
Overloon War Museum
Airborne Museum ‘Hartenstein’
Liberation Route Project
Government of the Republic of Poland
Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum
Polish War Memorial Committee
RAF Northolt – Polish War Records
Royal Norwegian Government
You can find out more or donate to IBCC at: www.internationalbcc.co.uk