Located in York, the former RAF Elvington air base was the home of RAF and, latterly, Free French squadrons of Halifax bombers during World War II. During that period, the losses of aircrew were very high and today the site houses the Yorkshire Air Museum, a living memorial to allied air forces personnel.
After the war, the Elvington site was leased to the U.S. government as a potential base for strategic bombers. The runway was extended to over 10,000 feet and a massive 49 acre apron was constructed at a cost of £4 million (over £130 million in today’s money). No American combat aircraft ever used the site. It was handed back to the U.K. in 1952 and it was in partial use, mainly for RAF training until the 1990s. It also played an important role in flight testing of the Blackburn Buccaneer carrier based bomber in the 1960s.
The long runway made the site attractive for speed record attempts and Elvington has held some important records, including the 1970 breaking of Malcolm Campbel’s 43-year-old speed record for a car driven only by its wheels on U.K. soil (207.6 mph) and also the highest speed motorcycle crash in which the rider survived (Zeph Eisenberg, 230 mph in 2016). In 2019, Guy Martin broke the world speed record for a tractor at over 135 mph (breaking his own record, which was also set at Elvington).
Much of the site is now occupied by the fantastic Yorkshire Air Museum, which houses a collection of 50 aircraft including a Halifax bomber, one of only three in the world. The Halifax was the second most important heavy bomber of the RAF during WWII, after the Lancaster. (The only other restored example can be found in Canada.)
Beyond aircraft, the museum has a massive collection that includes military and civilian vehicles. Many of the former RAF buildings are set up as display spaces with imaginative dioramas.
Elvington is also the home to the Allied Air Forces Memorial. There is also a memorial to the women who served during WWII. The site also has a motor racing circuit which is particularly popular for motorcycle racing.
Know Before You Go
The site was the only station used by Free French heavy bomber forces during WWII. A memorial to the French crews can be found in the nearby village of Elvington.