RAFA opens its doors to celebrate 70 years

RAFA CELEBRATION Chairman Barry Parker and secretary Colin Whitworth outside Broughton House.
RAFA CELEBRATION Chairman Barry Parker and secretary Colin Whitworth outside Broughton House.

An organisation for RAF personnel and their families is throwing open its doors to celebrate its 70th birthday.

The Batley and Birstall branch of the Royal Air Forces Association will show the public what it has to offer at a special open day on Saturday March 2.

Based in Cambridge Street, Batley, the branch will welcome Batley and Spen MP Mike Wood, the Mayor of Kirklees David Ridgway and local councillors in a bid to remind people of its work.

The charity was first formed in 1943, with the Batley and Birstall branch created in 1947, two years after WWII ended.

Members used to meet in homes and pubs before moving to their permanent home at Broughton House in Cambridge Road, where they have met for 50 years.

The branch works with the British Legion to coordinate remembrance services, honours the fallen of the Battle of Britain each year and raises money for the RAFA throughout the year.

Members also produce talking air mail for ex-service members around the world, recording the content of the RAFA newsletter onto CDs for the blind.

Barry Parker and Colin Whitworth have served the branch as chairman and secretary for 21 years.

Colin said the organisation is keen for new members and hopes to keep the spirit of RAF camaraderie alive.

He said: “It’s to keep together the comradeship which our men have.

“There’s a lot of branches without clubs and we’re very fortunate to keep this one going.”

The branch has more than 100 members, but around 75 per cent are in their 70s, he added.

Long-standing member Betty McAleavey, 91, was a sergeant in the RAF during WWII and an air frame mechanic – considered a man’s job at the time.

Chairman Barry Parker said the organisation has struggled because not many local people were joining the air force.

He said: “How many people from Batley have signed up to the RAF recently?

“There are very few that have joined up.”

Colin said: “There’s adverts on TV for people to join the forces but they are making them redundant by the bucketload.”

As well as introducing the public to the work of the RAFA, the branch also hopes the open day will showcase the club as a picturesque venue for parties and weddings.

“I go to other branches and I don’t know anybody that’s got rooms like we have,” Colin said.

“We have a ballroom, it’s beautiful. It’s been a highlight for years and years.”

The open day will run from 5pm onwards, with refreshments available.