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North Witham D-Day control tower will not be demolished

RAF North Witham control tower.

RAF North Witham control tower.

Campaigners fighting to protect an important former Second World War airfield control tower have been assured there are no plans to demolish it.

Hundreds of people signed a petition demanding that the North Witham building be safeguarded because it is sited on an airfield which played a vital role in the critical D-Day landings in June 1944.

The US air force flew from there the day before the iconic assault to drop paratroopers in Northern France so they could set up radio beacons to guide the Allied invasion force.

Most of the exterior structure of the control tower is still in place but because it is in such a dilapidated condition fears were growing that it could be demolished.

But the Forestry Commission, which now owns the site, told the Journal it was not planning any demolition work on the old airfield.

War enthusiast Kit Harvey has launched a campaign to preserve the building because of its historical significance and 361 people have now signed a petition

Mr Harvey said: “There are hundreds of buildings like this which were important during the war and none of them seem to be protected or listed. It’s a great shame that many of them have now gone.”

The 101st Airborne Division, immortalised in the popular American TV series ‘Band of Brothers’, were stationed at North Witham. The night before the D-Day landings, the squadron transported 200 Pathfinder paratroopers to Northern France to help guide the invading airborne troops the following day as they landed ahead of the multitude of boats ferrying troops to the beaches of Normandy.

Mr Harvey, who grandfather fixed Lancasters, Spitfires and Hurricanes in the war, said: “I got interested in North Witham when I watched a film called Pathfinders. I started wondering what had happened to the old airfield, so I made a few enquiries and discovered what could happen to the control tower.”

Mr Harvey has had messages of support from the United States as he bids to protect the former airfield building. The 101st Airborne Division congratulated him on his campaign but told him they could not offer any financial support as their funds were all being spent on supporting veterans.

He added: “It would be fantastic to see the old control tower restored as a museum but that would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. I’m trying to figure out a plan where we can raise money to pay the Forestry Commission to keep it secure and satisfy the health and safety issues so we can at least retain the building.

“Next year is the 70th anniversary of D-Day so it would be nice to maintain this important piece of our history.”

The old runways, as well as the control tower, are still visible at the former airfield at North Witham, which is now part of Twyford Wood.

The Forestry Commission said it was looking at ways of protecting the tower building from vandals so a colony of bats can continue living inside it.

A spokesman said: “There appears to be some misunderstanding. The Forestry Commission is planning to fence around the tower to protect the building and bat roost from unauthorised access.

“The tower is suffering from people lighting fires which are clearly dangerous and may threaten the bats. We have no immediate plans to demolish it.”

Log on at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/57545 if you would like to sign the petition campaigning for the control tower to be saved in the long-term.

 

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