Hillingdon Council is now the proud custodian of a precious collection of Royal Air Force (RAF) artifacts belonging to Battle of Britain flying ace Wing Commander Ronald Gustave Kellett, DSO, DFC, AE.
Wg Cdr Kellett's children handed over the collection to its new home at the Battle of Britain Bunker in Uxbridge, which was the secret heart of Britain's air defence during the Second World War - writes hillingdon.gov.uk.
Wg Cdr Kellett served locally during the Battle of Britain in 1940 as the British officer commanding 303 Squadron, a Polish fighter squadron at RAF Northolt, cementing the Hillingdon connection.
Wg Cdr Kellett's children explained they were looking to donate their father's artifacts as they felt it was important to keep all of the items together. The family explained that with five siblings and 14 grandchildren they were concerned their father's collection would be split up and he would be forgotten. Consequently they decided that the Battle of Britain Bunker was the best home after meeting Daniel Stirland, Senior Curator, at a Polish Air Force dinner.
Judy Williams, Wg Cdr Kellet's daughter, said: "Meeting Dan came at the right time and we are pleased future generations will be able to admire father's items and that his legacy is kept alive at the bunker. This is an amazing place. It is amazing to think of the hard work of the people working down there, and they must have known the pilots including father."
Hillingdon Council is investing nearly £6 million in a new visitor centre adjacent to the historic underground bunker where the air defence of the nation was directed throughout the Second World War.
Daniel Stirland, said:"This is an historically significant collection and we are very excited the family chose to donate their father's items to us and this will be one of the highlights of the new exhibition when it opens in the Spring."
The donated items include his medals awarded for distinguished acts of valour and courage the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), and the Polish Virtuti Militari (VM) awarded to him for his leadership of 303 Squadron by General Sikorski. Other highlights include correspondence, flight log book and photographs - including one when he met King George IV.
Cllr Lewis, Cabinet Member for Central Services, Culture and Heritage said: "This is a major coup for us and it is wonderful that Hillingdon is home to Wg Cdr Kellett's medals so near to his old base at RAF Northolt. We even have a replica of the plane he flew in the colours of 303 squadron standing guard at the entrance to the underground bunker. These items will be the stars of our collection when the new £6 million Battle of Britain Bunker Exhibition and Visitor Centre opens next year."
By the end of the Battle of Britain Wg Cdr Kellett had destroyed five enemy aircraft, two 'probables' and 1 damaged which qualified him as a Battle of Britain Ace.
Wg Cdr Kellett served in the RAF and RAF Auxiliary from 1933 to 1953. He married in 1939 and moved toBenenden, Kent in 1948 where he died in 1998.
Visit the The Battle of Britain Bunker web pages for more information.
Notes to Editors
- The children making the donation were Jan Dryburgh, Judy Williams, Victor Kellett, Louise Pemberton, and Jonathan Kellett.
- The following words about the Polish flyers were written in the 303 Squadron Chronicle by Wg Cdr Kellett when he was leaving the unit: "We fought together through the great offensive of 1940 and I then knew that the pilots of No. 303 Squadron were not only the best but would also see me through any troubles. In the month of September, 303 Squadron was on top — no squadron from the Empire could equal the courage and skill of our pilots, no bombing could daunt our airmen."
- Kellett was one of the initial pilots to fly the new Hurricane fighter plane when it was first delivered.
- The Hurricane is credited for shooting down more enemy aircraft than the rest of Fighter Command's fighters, including the Spitfire.
- Kellett was able to communicate with his Polish officers because he spoke fluent French, the diplomatic language of the world at that time.
- Actor Sam Hoare is playing Wg Cmdr Kellett in the movie Hurricane currently in production.
- Hillingdon Council is marking Armistice Day with the launch of rocket maroons at 11 sites across the borough to mark the two minute silence commencing at 11amon Saturday 11 November.
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