Armed Forces exhibition picture

BNU honours local heroes in Armed Forces Week exhibition

Buckinghamshire New University has paid tribute to the Armed Forces with a special portrait exhibition celebrating the local county’s rich military history and showing support for local residents who have served since the 20th century.

Bucks played a huge role in both World Wars and its landmark military sites include RAF bases at High Wycombe (formerly RAF Bomber Command during WWII) and Halton, the Hillside map-making base at Hughenden Manor, and codebreaking centre Bletchley Park.

In collaboration with Bucks Free Press and its nostalgia writer, Michael Dewey, the Armed Forces Week exhibition showcased 40 stories on: the role of Buckinghamshire and its residents both during and post-wartimes; the contributions of BNU’s serving and ex-serving military colleagues, students and alumni; and the University’s history in providing education for Armed Forces personnel from the University’s origins more than 130 years ago to the present day.

Highlights include: the eight sons of the Lord family who all fought in WWI and returned home safely; the role of key Bucks’ groups such as the Women’s Institute, Women’s Land Army, and the Home Guard; the army’s links to Wycombe Wanderers, including former captain Frank Adams; the US Army Air Forces’ Pinetree base at Wycombe Abbey School; and the Caribbean volunteers who initially trained as RAF volunteers in WWII before taking up permanent roles and settling in Britain thereafter.

The display also incorporates a mini Windrush pop-up exhibition, covering four individual stories of men and women from the Caribbean who settled in Wycombe post-World War Two. This collaboration with Wycombe Museum and charity Near Neighbours came as the UK marked Windrush Day on Wednesday (22 June).

RAF Bomber Command

At the launch event on Monday, local RAF Station Commanders, exhibition contributors, and BNU staff and students who served or are serving in the Armed Forces, watched on as RAF Music Fanfare Trumpeters opened the exhibition. On Tuesday, Year 10 history pupils from Cressex Community School visited to learn more about World Wars One and Two as part of their studies.

One of the main stories in the exhibition features Alan Green, the father of BNU Aviation Lecturer, Stuart Green‍. Alan was based at Norfolk’s RAF Marham, a branch of the RAF’s bomber forces, whose HQ was RAF Bomber Command in High Wycombe.

Alan’s plane was shot down twice during World War Two. In the second incident, Alan Green's Stirling bomber flew from Norfolk and was hit in the early hours of 21 June 1942 – 80 years ago this week – killing three of the eight crew, although Alan managed to bale out.

After a brief period in hiding being helped by Dutch farmers, Alan was captured on a tram, while making his way to Amsterdam to meet up with Dutch resistance. He was eventually taken to a new prisoner of war camp in Silesia called Stalag Luft 3, which became famous for the “Wooden Horse” escape and the “Great Escape”. Having been marched to Berlin in early 1945, Alan was eventually liberated by the Russian Army and returned home in May 1945.

Saluting local heroes

The exhibition is the latest contribution to the Armed Forces by BNU, which last summer received a Ministry of Defence Gold Award for outstanding support for veterans, those who serve, and their families. The university is also a signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant.

Reflecting on the event, Professor Nick Braisby, Vice-Chancellor of Buckinghamshire New University: “We are proud and delighted to have hosted this exhibition in celebration of our Armed Forces. BNU has played a key role in providing education for the services throughout our 130-year history. We are especially proud of our close relationships with the Royal Air Force and the many bases within our vicinity.

“We continue to expand our military programmes and our support for servicemen and women, veterans and their families. Armed Forces Week is a time to show our support for the millions of serving troops who protect our country. We intended this inclusive exhibition to be a fitting tribute to their service. It tells the story of both our local Buckinghamshire heroes and the BNU family who have built the University’s support for the military and made Wycombe the proud and bustling town it is today.”