Progress made on second world war Lancaster memorial project “On Freedom’s Wings” on Nottinghamshire/Lincolnshire border billed as East Midlands answer to the Angel of the North by The Bomber County Gateway Trust
Dreams of a landmark memorial project — billed as the Midlands answer to the Angel of the North — are coming closer to reality.
The On Freedom’s Wings project will see a full-scale sculpture of a Lancaster Bomber erected in memory of the airmen that served at bases in the region.
The vision was brought to life by The Bomber County Gateway Trust — a group of passionate Lincolnshire-based people whose sole aim is to finance and build the structure — to mark the historic link that Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire shared with RAF Bomber Command during the second world war.
Standing at 29m in height, 9m taller than the Angel of the North, the sculpture will be located just off the A46, on the border of Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire close to the former RAF Swinderby.
After a successful period of fundraising and with donations continuing to come in with messages of support, it is estimated that around another £80,000 is needed in order to complete construction.
Ground was broken on the site, near Norton Disney, in 2018, with steel support beams put in place in the Spring of 2022.
The internal structure of the sculpture has now been fabricated and the next stage will be to lift this boxed internal fuselage onto the supports.
Di Ablewhite, from the Bomber County Gateway Trust, said: “We were hoping to lift the whole thing in one piece but it is far too big and far too heavy to do that, so we will have to do it in sections.
“We’re hoping that once the ground dries out by the spring or summer of next year, we will be able to make some progress on site.
“Once we have lifted the main structure, work can begin on finishing the sculpture with the steel shell, giving the Lancaster its shape and will weather, turning a lovely orange colour.”
The design of the memorial sculpture is based on Lancaster VN-N which crashed nearby in September 1942 killing five crew members including an Australian and a Canadian.
Despite the support of dozens of organisations and businesses — including Timmins Engineering, which are doing the main steel work — the project has suffered unexpected setbacks and delays in recent years.
“With covid, then the war in Ukraine and the cost of living crisis it’s made it such a difficult time to fundraise,” said Di.
“The problem we were finding was that as fast as we were fundraising, the cost of materials were going up.
“But the level of public support and interest is incredible. The positivity around it really spurs us on and it will be a massive draw to this area.
“There is so much aviation history across the region, that this will act as a reminder of the young men that flew from bases all over Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire and paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“So we were stuck for a long time, but we’ve come through it now and we are moving forward.”
The project has attracted international attention, with donations and messages of support coming in from as far afield as Australia and the United States in memory of loved ones that fought in the war and flew and worked on Lancasters.
Many individuals have also been inspired by the project, including former Mayor of Newark Laurence Goff who so far has raised over £8,000 for the cause and next year will take part in a skydive to draw attention to the project.
Speaking in 2018 before his death aged 101, George “Johnny” Johnson MBE, DFM — affectionately known as the last Dam Buster — said: “On Freedom’s Wings will be recognised as a symbol of the sacrifice made by nearly 58,000 men and women who served with Bomber Command. It will represent the pivotal role which the county of Lincolnshire played in the Second World War.
“I hope that this iconic art installation, situated on the border means as much to the people of Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire as it does to me”.
To support the project visit the trust’s fundraising page at: www.justgiving.com/campaign/bombercountygateway
The trust hope that the project will be complete by early 2025.