Claire Costello, of Froxfield, Wiltshire, was a village Parish Councillor when she heard about the Woodland Trust’s campaign offering free trees to plant in Remembrance, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of The Armistice.
However, with no village space suitable for a Remembrance wood, Claire began scouring the area and soon realised that locally there
was the stronger, natural link to WW2 war-time activities at RAF Ramsbury — the old airfield of which concrete remains are still visible today.
She discovered that while it is possible to walk around the area and see remnants of once vast concrete runways, there is currently no way of keeping alive the story of the part this area played in D-Day and the liberation of Europe. A project to link trees, Remembrance, and the airfield was born.
The first thing to do was to get support. Claire along with, fellow resident of Froxfield College Raine Cully, approached the Kennet Valley at War Trust, which works to keep alive the links with the area’s WW2 history and provide educational opportunities to schools and visitors.
A meeting was arranged at Littlecote House Hotel, which has deep connections as the site of much wartime planning for the D-Day landings. Enter Roger Day, a local historian and writer, and Mike Relph, a former army officer and a modern conflict archaeologist from the Kennet Valley at War Trust.
The next thing to do was to find a place to plant trees. “I approached Peter Wilson, a Froxfield farmer and landowner and he was immediately enthusiastic and agreed that 400-plus saplings could be planted to rejuvenate Burnt wood, immediately next to the airfield. It was perfect, and with Peter’s permission the project was now really achievable.”
A small group became a committee with the aim to install a suitable Remembrance Plaque to go with the new trees, as well as an information board to give some idea to visitors of the part the airfield played in WW2. Fund raising was instigated.
Claire says: “Slowly, but surely, as people heard about the project, donations were promised and individuals came forward who wanted to help.
“We had a major donation from the Capricorn Foundation, on behalf of the estate of Mr. Harry Hyams, of Ramsbury. This along with donations from other local landowners, charitable trusts, and individuals ensured the project would not only realise its initial objectives, but we would be able to erect a Memorial on the main runway, which today crosses the public rights of way. It was exciting to see how our small project seemed to grow and gain a momentum all of its own.”
Tree planting will take place on 10 November, at the airfield from 10 am – 3 pm. Ramsbury Cub Scouts, schoolchildren and their parents from Ramsbury Primary School, will join volunteers. More tree planters are needed, and can come and go to fit in with other commitments. Please get in touch with Claire, (details below), if you would like to help.
In May or June next year it will be 75 years since the last-minute planning for D-Day was being undertaken at Littlecote House. Visitors, guests, and locals will be invited to gather at Ramsbury Airfield for a commemoration service, and an official unveiling of the information board, along with the Remembrance Plaque and the Memorial stone. Claire says, “This will be a fitting tribute, we hope, to add to the other memorials locally that honour all the men and women – some local, some from the Commonwealth, Europe and, of course, from the USA – who joined forces and often gave their lives in defence of our freedoms.”
For more information about the Ramsbury Airfield Remembrance Project, contact Claire Costello at email@example.com or Tel. 07884137441