Alconbury Weald’s popular Heritage Open Day welcomes former serviceman
“This year was particularly special, as it is the first time we have welcomed someone who used to work in the Avionics Building during the Cold War. It was fantastic to meet Kevin Burtt and his wife and hear some stories from his time based at RAF Alconbury.”
Over 300 people braved the hottest day of the year to find out about Alconbury Weald’s fascinating past, from the Bronze Age through to its more recent military past. As well as vintage lawn games and food trucks, attendees were treated to 1940’s hits performed by The Umbrella Band, tours of the Avionics Building - the unique Cold War era military bunker - and in-depth talks from experts from the Airfield Research Group (ARG). The tours around the Avionics Building, which was designed to survive chemical and biological attack, proved popular again this year; selling out within six weeks of being posted on EventBrite.
Attendees were transported to the bunker in a vintage 1940s Dews coach before being taken around the Grade II listed building, which processed intelligence data collected by the TR-1 reconnaissance aircraft during the Cold War. The building is protected by a hardened concrete shell that keeps the building very cool, which provided a welcome break from the heat of the Day.
Among those taking the tour was Kevin Burtt and his wife, Theresa. Kevin was an aircraft mechanic for USAF based at RAF Alconbury from 1988 to 1993. He worked mainly night shifts and was part of the team responsible for repairing returning aircraft, so they were ready for their next mission. He lived on the base until 1992, when he married Theresa and they moved to Godmanchester.
On returning to the site after 30 years, he said that the Avionics Building “felt like it has just stopped in time”, although he remarked at “how quiet the building was” compared with when it was operational; with the machinery on, the airflow system operating and people working. He recalled that some days were very busy, while some were much quieter – especially on windy days when the planes could not fly – and how they played cricket or softball in one of the hangars or on the taxiway to pass the time. He’s looking forward to returning with his son next year, to show him where he worked and share some of his stories from his time at RAF Alconbury.
The Co-op, which opened in The Glade local centre at Alconbury Weald in the summer also had an exhibit on the history of the Co-op, from its origins in the 1880s when the Rochdale Pioneers formed the co-operative consumer societies, through to the Co-operative Group we know today. The team also brought along a range of savoury and sweet goodies for people to enjoy during the afternoon.
Natalie Leigh-Brown, Community Development Lead for Alconbury Weald, said: “Our annual Heritage Open Day is really popular with residents and people coming from far and wide to tour the Cold War bunker and find out more about the history and heritage of this unique development. “This year was particularly special, as it is the first time we have welcomed someone who used to work in the Avionics Building during the Cold War. It was fantastic to meet Kevin Burtt and his wife and hear some stories from his time based at RAF Alconbury.”
Many of the site’s historic features and footprints have been designed into the future designs for Alconbury Weald, which will include a specific Cold War heritage area, to remember the unique role the base played in Cold War intelligence.
To find out more about Alconbury Weald’s fascinating heritage, visit https://www.alconbury-weald.co.uk/about/heritage/