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South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum Celebrates History of Doncaster and Falklands

The trustees and volunteers of the South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum (SYAM) are delighted that Doncaster has been awarded City Status, as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, given that our area has always been a pioneer for the UK’s aviation sector.

Although the city is well known for its heritage in railways and horse racing, the role we have played in aviation often goes overlooked. Yet it’s just as important.

In 1909, Doncaster was the venue for the first UK Aviation Meeting (which we would call it an air show nowadays). This was only the second of these to take place in the entire world and it tied in three of Doncaster’s claims to fame. It was held at the Racecourse and many of the visitors, estimated at 100,000 per day for each of the eight days, came by train from all over the UK and further abroad.

There is a lot more information in the display at SYAM, telling the story of early aviation in South Yorkshire, including a replica of the Bleriot aircraft which set a world airspeed record of 49.5 mph. This is a truly amazing feat, when you consider how few modern aircrafts can now take off at such a low speed much, less see this as the fastest they could go.

Following further ‘Air Pageants’ at the Racecourse, the opening of a First World War airbase at the Town Moor and, subsequently, one of the earliest international airports in the UK adjacent to the racecourse, Doncaster’s aviation history continued to hit new firsts.

One of great significance is the formation of the first-ever RAF squadron to be equipped with jet fighters, the ‘616 (South Yorkshire) Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadron’. In fact, this was established on what is now the SYAM museum site.

Another large part of SYAM’s extensive display is devoted to the Falklands War and part of this is devoted to the current life in the Islands. Because of that connection, SYAM would also like to congratulate the Falkland Islanders on account of their capital, Stanley, being successful in its own city status bid (just like Doncaster).  

This year is extra important to the Falklands, as it marks the 40th Anniversary of their liberation from the Argentine invasion. SYAM has been privileged to count many Veterans of the War, their families, and several Islanders amongst their visitors this year.

The museum houses an official Falklands War Memorial, which honours the 255 British Servicemen and 3 Islanders who lost their lives in the conflict. This anniversary year, they added two memorial benches, in honour of local men who lost their lives, and an additional display of ‘Messages from the Falklands’, where islanders have been able to express their everlasting thanks and affection for those who liberated them in 1982.

On the 15th of May, over one hundred attended a short commemorative service at the Memorial, when the benches and display boards were revealed by family members of some who made the ultimate sacrifice and did not return.

In summary, SYAM are proud to have so much on display about the history of two new cities and they look forward to the ongoing support of the people of both.

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