When one of Ely Squadron’s staff members was sent a link to an unusual EBay item up for auction he knew he had to do whatever he could to bring a little piece of Ely’s history home, The old RAF Ely sign had come up for auction after being taken down 30 years ago when the RAF Station closed.
CI John Donoghue used the power of Ely Air Cadets closed facebook Page to appeal to Cadets, Parents and Staff to donate just £5 each in what he called a “Fiver Fundraiser” and overnight the purchase price was reached.
CI Donoghue said “Keeping the donations at pocket money prices meant it wasn’t just the parents and staff involved. The plan was to raise enough to buy the sign and bring it back to display at the Squadron’s headquarters which is based in the old RAF NAAFI building in the hospital’s grounds.”
“If we were successful my idea was to engrave the names of those who donated on the rear of the sign like a time capsule so future cadets would know who brought the sign back home. It wasn’t just cadets parents and staff that got involved though, we had grandparents from as far afield as South Africa donating as well”
“We would prefer to display the sign on the exterior wall of our unit headquarters but a memorial we built to commemorate the local WW2 bomber crews was stolen from its plinth outside. However, all the cadets are very excited at the prospect of having the RAF Station sign back in Ely. Our Squadrons badge is based on the old RAF Ely Station crest and a small team of us are going on a road trip in the Squadron minibus this weekend to bring the sign back home”
The RAF Ely Station sign stood at the gates to RAF Hospital Ely from 1987 to 1992 when the RAF Station closed down. The RAF Hospital opened its doors in 1940 and was kept busy during the Second World War treating the casualties from all over the RAF and USAF and other armed forces. Tragically the hospital wards were full of airmen from local bomber bases as East Anglia performed such a vital role with so many airfields involved in the war effort.
In July 1987, the station was renamed the Princess of Wales RAF Hospital during a visit by HRH Princess Diana.
In 1992 the station was disbanded but following local campaigns the site and many of the original RAF buildings were retained as a community hospital.
It was in 1992 that following demolition work the station sign designated for scrap was saved from the scrap heap and resurfaced many years later at auction. The photos below show the sign as it is today and in its original position back in 1992 just before the station shut its doors.
This month Ely Air Cadets are recruiting, if you are aged between 12 to 17 then all you have to do is come along with a parent or your guardian at 7:30pm on any Thursday night in May to The Air Cadet Centre, Heaton Drive CB7. The minimum age to join The RAF Air Cadets is 12 years old but in year 8.
If you don’t live within travelling distance of Ely then simply click on this link and enter your postcode to find your nearest Air Cadet Squadron:
From 1094 Ely Squadron Royal Air Force Air Cadets